Changeling, like The Lovely Bones, deals with a highly controversial story perhaps more so because unbelievably, this story is true. The story takes place in depression-era Los Angeles, a town in which the corrupt police department rule with an iron fist, killing or institutionalizing anyone who dared get in their way; Christine Collins did just that. The story is an emotional portrayal of how a desperate woman single-handedly fought the law, and, against insurmountable odds, won.
Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) was a single, middle class parent working full-time as a switchboard supervisor, the early pre-sofware system used to route telephone calls. One day she returns from work to find her son Walter Collins has disappeared without a trace. She immediately calls the LAPD who reassure her that they will find her son; they succeed in finding a boy, the wrong boy. Unbelievably, the boy maintains he is indeed her son, eerily possessing knowledge about her family.
Immediately aware the boy is not hers she calls the police department, who, desperate to avoid embarrassment, insist the boy is her son despite the fact that the boy is three inches shorter than Walter. What follows is a sepia-toned battle of wills between the grief-stricken Collins and the god complexed LAPD. Gathering evidence to support her plight, she becomes a threat to the already damaged integrity of the police department. Collins, after refusing to give up, was placed in a psychiatric hospital by the LAPD.
Despite encountering unimaginable horrors incarcerated in the hospital, she continues to fight with a renewed determination, refusing to sign a document expunging the police department from any wrongdoing in the handling of her case. She is eventually freed by a Christian Radio presenter (John Malkovich) dedicated to exposing the corruption of the LAPD, a powerful man and one of the few people with immunity from the vengeance of the LAPD. With his help she begins to build a case with the best lawyer in Los Angeles.
Like The Lovely Bones, Changeling features a highly controversial subject and although rewarding, it may be difficult to watch for some. The film effortlessly shifts genres between tragedy, thriller and even horror, a validation of the skills of veteran director Clint Eastwood. It is beautifully shot with the design of the sets flawless. The performance of Angelina Jolie is awe-inspiring; she succeeds in conveying incredible emotional depth and a realistic, sympathetic and above all dignified portrayal of a woman who would stop at nothing to find her son.
- Acting: 5/5
- Direction: 5/5
- Entertainment: 5/5
- Second Viewing Value: 3/5
- Overall: 5/5
- The first cut ran 50 minutes longer. It includes two major scenes shot but removed. The first subplot is a long roof chase where Northcott (Jason Butler Harner) eludes capture from the Mounties. Another major deleted sequence is where after Christine returns from the mental institution, Briegleb (John Malkovich) brings men to protect her as he believes that she was in danger from the LAPD.
- J. Michael Straczynski first learned of the story of Christine Collins from an unnamed source at Los Angeles City Hall. The source had stumbled across case files regarding the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders among other discarded documents scheduled for destruction. Straczynski took the files himself and became obsessed with the case, doing extensive research over the course of a year. Virtually every event depicted in the film appears as cited in legal documents, with dialog often taken verbatim from court transcripts. Straczynski wrote his first draft of the screenplay in only eleven days.
- Both Hilary Swank and Reese Witherspoon lobbied for the role of Christine Collins. Clint Eastwood cast Angelina Jolie at the suggestion of Executive Producer Ron Howard, who noted that Jolie’s “look” would fit best with the time period.
- Based on the true story of the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, also known as the Wineville Chicken Murders.