Angelina Jolie is known primarily for two things: being the eye candy in action films and owning the pair of lips for which lipstick was truly invented.  In the Clint Eastwood directed drama Changeling she proves she’s a decent actress as well.

Jolie as Christine Collins in Clint Eastwood's ChangelingBased on a true story Changeling follows the plight of Christine Collins (Jolie), whose son, Walter, goes missing, only to have the wrong boy returned five months later.  She then sets to fight against the corrupt Los Angeles Police Department and their brutal use of force to take out anyone who stands against them.

Aiding her in her plight is Rev. Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich) a local Presbyterian minister who preaches against the corruption of the LAPD lead by Chief James Davis (Colm Feore). 

The entire police force is corrupt.  They come off as true badguys; slick and cool because there’s nothing you can do to them.  Even when they do the right thing they do it for the wrong reason and come off as truly detestable villains.

Through nothing more than mere coincidence a seemingly routine deportation reveals a major break in the case when Detective Lester Ybarra (Michael Kelly), who eventually becomes the lone point of light on the force, picks up a Canadian boy who reveals a much more brutal force at work.

Yes I said brutal.  The movie opens on Halloween and there is violence and gore.  But don’t expect your usual fare of Halloween variety slashes here.  The violence is very present, but much like a Hitchcock classic you never actually see any of it. 

Providing the villain here is Jason Butler Harner as Gordon Northcott.  He is not introduced until late in the story and quickly becomes the most intriguing character therein, as is a staple of good storytelling.

Eastwood directs to a level of near flawlessness even with the film’s 140 minute runtime.  With Jolie playing the principle character the audience follows her from suburban LA to a psych ward to an abandoned farm and through two courtrooms, each becoming more and more interesting and entertaining.   Throughout this, there are even turn-on-a-dime emotional uppercuts that really do hit the mark.  Clint Eastwood is so much more than Dirty Hairy when he is behind the camera.

Speaking of which, Eastwood also wrote the score for this film, which does nothing to put the western legend in a place to usurp John Williams from his pedestal, but Eastwood did seem a little overly proud of his work using it as the foreground music for a montage when it may have been better served as background music.

Changeling is a film that would be more appropriately released in May than in late October.   Not because it has the potential of being a big summer blockbuster.  That classification is reserved for movies about grown men wearing capes and their pajamas in public. No, this movie should have been released in May because it’s something you should take your mother to see on Mother’s Day. That is if your mother is one to withstand some violent innuendos and harsh language.

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