Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Changeling

You know what? For once I am actually not going to criticise a straightforward, bog-standard conventional film for being unoriginal. This is a perhaps one in a lifetime. Why you ask? Were you expecting a rant? Sorry not today (got a few left in me for the end of the year). This film is damn good. Damn good is an understatement. It is absolutely fantastic. Just whenever you thought that this was going to be the year of The Dark Knight, the old dog Clint Eastwood has come along and raid on Bats' party. Now, setting is very simple, mother goes to work one day and leaves her child at home and the child is kidnapped, and the child is found and returned by the police, except it is not her child. Now, with regards to me saying that setting/plot is simple is a lie, just like the film-makers have lied to draw you into this plot of epic proportions. It is such a superbly well written story, reminiscent of the Chandler mystery novels, in which once you think you know the full story, another layer is added to the mystery, which completely changes your previous perceptions. Also, the script appeals greatly to the actors, who greatly exploit the material that is given to them to their own advantage, with a strong script drawing out some note-perfect performances from the cast. Of course, the big talking point of the film is Angelina Jolie. Word around the film community is that she will be getting an Oscar nomination for this role. Well, to be perfectly honest, from my own perspective, she should be a shoe-in for the Oscar after such a behemoth of a role. This is one of those rare occasions in cinema even today whenever an actress under forty gets the opportunity to carry a two-and-a-half hour movie. And boy does she carry it. In a performance that is the perfect balance of emotional and reactional in her role as Christine Collins, she shows the level of maturity the likes of which have not been seen in a long time from an actress. Every time she stars in the film, Jolie has to get past the public's preconceptions of "Bradgelina" and his sex symbol status. Gone are all preconceptions. She moulds into this role, one reminiscent of the first golden age of Hollywood (1930s-1940s). Also, the supporting cast in it are brilliant. John Malkovich puts great restraint in his role as Father Gustav Briegleb, pulling off a good supporting role, while not being his usual extravagent self, graciously letting Jolie take center stage. Also, Jeffrey Donovan as Captain Jones is a great villain. Playing a role which like Malkovich's, could have been all-out extravagant, he finds a fine balance too, and creates a villain that the audience can truly hate. Even minor characters, particularly each of the young cast members, are completely believable in their roles, be it Walter Collins at the beginning, or the Changeling of the title. As mentioned, the film has a great script which caters to the actors. In my opinion, this is a film which is a composite, as in one element breaks down, the whole movie collapses. Clint Eastwood's direction certainly does not break down. He directs with such great flair for a man who is pushing eighty. For example, Clint is always mentioned about how economic and quick at directing a film he is. He directs like a man three times younger than him. He manages to find enough of a balance between the drama genre and thriller genre, not spending too much time on either. Also, Eastwood too composed his own score for this film, which shows how much of himself he contributes to each of his directorial projects. Now primarily a director, he acts in many of his film, composes the score and frequently writes the script. I'm surprised he does not pace himself. For example, this year he has directed two films, this and Gran Torino, the second of which he plays the lead. Two years ago, he directed two war films back-to-back, one of which was a Japanese language film. Once again Eastwood proves himself in my opinion as one of the world's greatest directors, living or deceased. That the film is so deep is a testament to everyone involved. This is one of my many mentioned "theme" films, in which you can gather so much. For example, on one end, you could interpret it as a critique on the disempowerment of women in society, for the authorities attempt to manipulate Collins into thinking she may well be insane. Also, as mentioned there, it could be interpreted as a commentary on police and political corruption in 1920's Los Angeles. Another interpretation could be as a study on the position of children in that society. Or simply, as many will probably get from it, it is the story of a mother's struggle. As mentioned, it is a two-and-a-half hour movie, and despite it's length I would urge people to see it because unlike The Dark Knight, which at times does seem quite drawn out, this movie sinks in very quickly. My only real dissatisfaction is that I found the ending schmaltzy and quite traditional for such a story, but nonetheless, it did not bother me to the point of anger or disappointment. So then, without further adue, I think Changeling is a fine piece of work, with superb performances, particularly that of Jolie, which make all characters three-dimensional (even the most despicable), a fantastic script and Clint Eastwood doing what he does best: make movies full-stop.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.6/10

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