Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Colm Feore, Amy Ryan

Directed by Clint Eastwood
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 3.5
Community: star rating
5 3.5 0
October 30, 2008

Talk about creative mojo. In the past five years, Clint Eastwood has delivered an unbroken string of triumphs: Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima. Eastwood's eye for shaping story and character has grown keener over the years (he's 78). The proof of his sure touch and emotional acuity as a director is on powerful display in Changeling, a riveting true crime story set in Los Angeles in 1928, around the time Eastwood was born.

Angelina Jolie is a force of nature in lipstick and a cloche hat as Christine Collins, a single mother whose nine-year-old son, Walter, goes missing while she's at work supervising a telephone switchboard, a job she does on roller skates. The LAPD, riddled with corruption, offers little help. And then, five months later, Capt. J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan, slime with a badge) produces the boy at a train station, the perfect photo op. Only it's not so perfect. Christine knows instantly that the boy isn't her son. The cops call her neurotic and worse, despite support from radio evangelist Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich excels in a rare portrait of faith minus the clichéd fanaticism).

The police eventually throw Christine into a mental institution, where a deeper level of police depravity is uncovered (a big shout-out here to the superb Amy Ryan as an inmate with secrets). Add to that a serial killer (Jason Butler Harner), who may count Walter as one of his victims. There are times when Changeling seems like science fiction. (Hell, screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski created TV's Babylon 5.) But the incredible story is a matter of public record, and Straczynski tells it with artful finesse. Christine's battle for her rights and, by extension, the rights of all women becomes a personal crusade. Though Changeling recalls Chinatown and L.A. Confidential in its indictment of a system decaying from the inside, it's the human drama that pulls us in, to the haunting strains of Eastwood's resonant score.

Jolie is inspired casting. She plays the role like a gathering storm, moving from terror to a fierce resolve. And Eastwood, at the peak of his artful powers, tightens the screws of suspense without ever forgetting where the heart of his film lies. Lesser hands might let the story sink into teary sentiment. Not Eastwood and Jolie. In saluting the warrior in Christine, star and director have made a mesmerizing film that burns in the memory.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “You Oughta Know”

    Alanis Morissette | 1995

    This blunt, bitter breakup song -- famous for its line "Would she go down on you in a theater?" -- was long rumored to be about Alanis Morissette getting dumped by Full House actor Dave Coulier. But while she never confirmed it was about him (Coulier himself says it is, however), she insisted the song wasn't all about scorn. "By no means is this record just a sexual, angry record," she told Rolling Stone. "The song wasn't written for the sake of revenge. It was written for the sake of release. I'm actually a pretty rational, calm person."

    More Song Stories entries »