4 stars — Powerful
The true story of the abduction of Christine Collins’ son is powerfully told by Clint Eastwood in his newest film, Changeling.
With the eye of a master filmmaker, Eastwood uses this disturbing event and the corruption it exposed in the Los Angeles Police Department early in the 20th century to remind us that evil can reside in all areas of society. But if people of faith and courage stand up to such evil, it can be defeated.
A single mother whose husband left when she gave birth to their son, Christine (Angelina Jolie) is a responsible worker and dedicated mother. Her son, Walter (Gattlin Griffith), is a typical 9-year-old who is disappointed when his mother is called in to work on a Saturday after she had promised to take him to the movies. Leaving that morning and coming home just before dark, she finds the house empty. The greatest fear of any parent has become her reality when she calls the L.A. police to report her missing son.
The abduction is only part of the story. That there is evil that harms us is why we need police to protect us and hold those who do such things accountable. However, when those sworn to protect us use their power to harm us, then evil in all its various forms flourishes.
Walter’s disappearance is of little importance to Capt. J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) or Police Chief James Davis (Colm Feore), caring little for the citizens they are supposed to protect. Wanting to have something to celebrate in the media, they jump on the claim of a young boy in another state, Arthur Hutchins (Devon Conti), who says he is the missing Collins boy — a claim Christine immediately rejects when she meets him.
What happens from that point is an amazing journey of injustice and evil, laced with courage and integrity. One of the leading people involved in this fight for justice is the Rev. Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich), whose campaign to expose the corruption of the police involved not only the use of his pulpit but also his nightly radio show. With his support and her courage, the truth is exposed, not only about her son but about the L.A. Police Department, leading to a complete overhaul of leadership in the department and the mayor’s office.
Although this is a true story, powerfully told, of courage and ultimate justice, it is a graphically violent film with disturbing images not recommended for the sensitive viewer.
» Many people in our country as well as around the world have experienced not being treated with respect by the police, which is why the legal system needs to hold police and politicians accountable. In the city or nation in which you live, do you feel that the police treat you with respect? Why or why not?
» The lack of respect for women evident in this story shows how American culture of the 1920s did not give equal protection under the law. What has changed since then, and what remains unfair?
» The use of the psychiatric facility to imprison people who were simply an embarrassment to the police is something that has been legally changed. Do you see anything similar to that misuse in society today?
Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.