Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mini Review: Changeling (****)

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Cast: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Kelly, Colm Feore, Jason Butler Harner, Amy Ryan, Geoff Pierson, Denis O'Hare, Frank Wood, Peter Gerety, Reed Birney, Gattlin Griffith, Devon Conti, Eddie Alderson, Asher Axe, Lily Knight.

2008--148 min.

Rated R (violent and disturbing content, language)

Reviewed by The Teen Critic on November 4, 2008.

Clint Eastwood captured lightning in a bottle with 2004's "Million Dollar Baby," easily the best of 2004's impressive lineup. "Changeling" may not be the best film of 2008, but it is easily one of the best films of the year, due to a revelatory, quietly effective performance by Angelina Jolie that ranks as her best ever and cinematography so breathtaking one is lost in it for most of the running time. "Changeling" is a masterpiece of storytelling and true cinematic art. Expect this film to be high on my Top Ten of 2008.

Jolie stars as Christine Collins, a telephone operator whose son tragically goes missing during a long day at the office. She tells the police her story, and the police seem to believe her. When they find a boy who looks like, and claims to be, Christine's son, they return him to her. But she knows her son--knows that he's not been circumsized, knows that he does like movies, and knows that he is lying. The police, in their lack of common sense, do not believe her and at first appear to be covering up their mistake.

Oh, but there is so much more in its 148 minutes, which fortunately don't drag for one second. Eastwood has crafted a sprawling, intimate epic whose length is aided by an awards-worthy screenplay, top-notch performances across the board (no weak links as far as I could tell), and the aforementioned cinematography, which comes dangerously close to the heights reached by Roger Deakins's fine work last year in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and "No Country for Old Men." If "Changeling" isn't the best of the year, its cinematography certainly is.

If Jolie is riveting, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, and Amy Ryan (in a slightly underwritten role that she sells all the way) are every bit her equal--especially Donovan, strangely believable with his Californian accent as Captain J. J. Jones. The ensemble is perfection personified.

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