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Changeling

Year: 2008
Production Co: Imagine Entertainment
Studio: Universal
Director: Clint Eastwod
Producer: Brian Grazer/Clint Eastwod
Writer: J Michael Straczynski
Cast: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Denis O'Hare

To me it wasn't really the story of a mother desperate to find her missing son based on the infamous Chicken Coop murders that really happened in the 1920s. It's about the abuse of unchallenged power, especially in an era when a woman had little authority over her life to begin with.

When telephone operator and single mother Christine (Jolie) has to leave her son alone for the day unexpectedly, she enters every parent's nightmare when she comes home to find him gone.

After an agonising wait the police announce they've picked up the boy in the rural US, but when he gets off the train Christine's excitement is crushed - the kid is not hers. When she protests, the police start an orchestrated campaign to convince, then threaten her. They desperately need the good press and delivering the wrong missing child to a distraught mother is an embarrassment they don't need in the papers.

Christine fights, finding herself stripped of everything and thrown in an asylum, but she's been lucky that a broadcasting pastor (Malkovich) has started to fight from her corner after devoting a good portion of his work to break the stranglehold of official corruption the police hold over Los Angeles.

There are a few stories going on here - a missing child drama, a historical David versus Goliath and a mystery story as an itinerant boy is nabbed near Canada and tells a macabre tale that might explain the fate of Christine's son.

The script weaves an engaging, sad and satisfying tale around historical events and Jolie only just manages to disappear into the character of Christine, such a big star she's constantly in danger of her star wattage blinding us to the person she's playing much like Tom Cruise often does.

Eastwood's an interesting case these days. Letters From Iwo Jima had a stylized, washed out, war zone palette, but he has no writing credits on recent work and everything else he's directed employs little flourish, almost as if he considers himself just a technician to point the camera at the story happening. Despite great period detail Changeling plays it similarly straight.

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