Changeling is the story of Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), a mother in the late 1920's in LA who returns home from work to find her son is missing. A search by the LAPD sees a boy being returned to her that the LAPD claim is her son, except he is not. What follows is a harrowing tale of a woman's struggle to find her son, when the LAPD are fighting against her to save face, landing her in a mental institution against her will. However, this is at most two-thirds of the film, but if you've only seen the trailer then you'd think that's all there is. But there is a third act that is truly harrowing and disturbing, and makes this so much more than the story of a mother's search for justice.
Jolie is simply magnificent here, and if there is anyone out there who doubts her talent merely because she is beautiful, Jolie shows that she act and look equally stunningly at the same time. John Malcovich also has a strong turn as a reverend who uses his pulpit to expose the LAPD for the sordid, corrupt organisation that they are, while Amy Ryan has a typically superb performance as an inmate in the same mental hospital as Christine. John Butler Harner is excellent as Gordon Northcott, bringing a wonderfully naive innocence along with savage brutality to his character, while Eddie Alderson is well deserving of a mention as his cousin, Sanford Clark.
I may well have been the only person in the cinema who wasn't going to see Changeling because it starred Angelina Jolie or because it was directed by Clint Eastwood. No, I was going to see Changeling because it was written by J. Michael Straczynski, a man I consider to be one of the finest screenwriters to have ever lived. And for those who know Straczynski's other work, it's easy to spot the little things that mark it as his. The line "Don't start a fight, but always finish it" and Christine's lawyer Sammy Hahn momentarily spotting things to tell his daughter about, before remembering again that she is dead both feature in Babylon 5, and, as a fan, made me smile.
Make no mistake about it, Changeling is a truly great film. The script is impeccable, the casting superb and the direction is effortless. I don't want to divulge too much of the plot, because with a script this good, a lot of the pleasure comes from seeing where the story goes. It must be a strong contender for this year's Best Picture Oscar, and a near-certainty for Best Actress for Jolie, who gives the performance of her career.
If you go to see one film in the cinema at the moment, make it this. A+.