Clint Eastwood's latest film is about a missing child so you'd be right to be prepared for quite a bleak offering. The level of bleakitude (at the end of the year I'm gonna list my favourite made up words) is something you'll only be prepared for if you know Changeling contains all of the following. Child murder, police corruption, women beatings, wrongful imprisonment, electro-shock therapy, public executions and a soundtrack courtesy of Leonard Cohen. Okay it doesn't have a soundtrack by Leonard Cohen but its still not cheery, happy, fun.
Set in the pseudo-glamorous 1920's, Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) is a single mom over-working as a telephone operator. When she returns home to find her sprog missing she immediately calls the LAPD. Before you can say "Damn those Portugese police" the kid has gone missing for more time then any parent would hope for, and more importantly passed the time in which any hope may be left that he'll return. After a few months, however, Christine gets a call saying hooray to the boys in blue, they've found him. Except he's now shorter by a few inches, is circumcised and is definitely not her son.
This is just where the trouble starts. Once the mum starts to kick up a bit of a fuss that she'd kind of prefer, y'know, her own son back instead, a shitstorm of biblical proportions rain down on the funny hat wearing, big lipped MILF. And hats (funny or otherwise) off to Clint for directing the finest performance of Angie's career. While its a role most actresses would suck a donkey off to get, for the first time in her career Angelina Jolie becomes the character she's supposed to be playing. Toward the end when she cracks a smile over the fortunes of It Happened One Night it melts away a dislike I've had of her for quite some time. Enough in fact that if she takes home the little bald guy early next year I won't complain.
Ms Jolie may take the headlines as The Man With No Name's contibution to cinema has almost reached a level of expected greatness that nothing he can do can really impress too much. Well forget his ridiculously awesome back catalogue and worship at the alter of one of cinemas greatest film makers. He tells a story in a way few others do. Not one to go for the showy opening or the jaw on the floor ending prefering instead to play his second act as his best hand. We're damn lucky that at 78 he's still making cinema with no signs of stopping. And while this last line may sound like I'm trying to get on the DVD sleeve its still true. Nothing, especially not my opening paragraph, can really prepare you for the emotional highs and lows of Changeling.