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Changeling (2008) Print E-mail
Monday, 02 March 2009
ImageI have yet to determine whether or not I really enjoy films based on a true story.  On the one hand they are interesting due to their basis in reality.  On the other hand, they can often just be creepy and disturbing.  “Changeling” is one of the latter.  You wouldn’t think it, until the Northcott Farm comes into the picture.  Things spiral toward the disturbing from that point on.  The film’s psychological thriller nature and creepy reality probably hurt the film overall, as it only grossed $35 million at he box office, about $20 million below the cost of the film.  Nonetheless the film certainly delivers steady performances and directing.

Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) is a telephone operator in Los Angeles during the late 1920s.  She is a single mom, with a son, Walter.  One Saturday she is called into work unexpectedly, having to leave her eight year-old son at home, alone.  Parenting sure was different back in the 20s.  She returns home late in the day to find the house empty.  She searches the neighborhood for Walter, but to no avail.  In a time when the cops of Los Angeles were more corrupt than any politician, Collins struggles to get them to help her search for her son.

After a lengthy period, the LAPD claim to have found her son in the custody of a drifter in Illinois.  When the boy gets off the train, Christine immediately knows it is not her son.  The LAPD does not want to hear it.  They think she is just in shock and doesn’t recognize him.  She insists that he is not Walter, but eventually takes the boy home.  She immediately finds that he is three inches shorter than that last time she measured her son, and that the boy in her presence was circumcised, of which Walter was not.  No one in the precinct will believe that they made a mistake.

Reverend Gustav Briegleb is a church activist that preaches about the corrupt city cops and the lack of safety for the city’s citizens.  When he learns of the Collins incident, he reaches out to Christine.  The Reverend persuades her to take a stand.  She is able to get sworn statements as to the identity of the boy as not being her son by her dentist and the real Walter’s school teacher.  When she confronts the press with this news, the lead detective in child services at the precinct calls Christine into the office.  She gives her one last opportunity to admit that the boy is her son, and she refuses.  The detective has her thrown into a mental institution.  It just so happens that the institution was filled with women that were not mentally unstable.  It turns out that all the women did something that upset the police department.

Another detective in child services is called out to a farm to capture a boy that had crossed the Canadian-American border illegally.  This is where things start to get creepy.  The boy is witness and an accomplice in the murder of at least 20 young boys.  Death by axe.

The reverend is able to get Christine out of the mental institution and recruits the best lawyer in town to bring charges against the city police. The story is beautifully put together, if a bit long at times.  The story is heart wrenching and may or may not have a happy ending, depending on how you look at it.  Clint Eastwood is legendary in the film business.  He has been a producer, writer, actor, composer and of course director.  His directing style is well suited to this film’s story.

The video is presented in a 1080p/VC-1 encode.  The image quality is surprisingly good considering the style of the film.  The image displays the original style intent by Eastwood as well as satisfies modern cinematography.  The film highlights blue and yellow hues.  You will not find any eye-popping colors in this film.  However, the film’s depth is nice due to deep blacks and solid contrast.  There is crushing in the blacks due to the film’s style.  The details are okay, but are not as good as modern style films.  Nonetheless, details are present.  There is a wash over the image to keep with the style of the film.  There is only minimal grain and the source print is clean.  There are no compression or motion artifacts, nor edge enhancement.  This is a good presentation that remains close to the 1920s film style.

The audio track on this disc is also a pleasant surprise.  We are given a DTS-HD Master Audio track.  The dialogue is clear and present in the center channel.  Not much happens in the far left and right front channels.  The surround channels are used nicely when the situation calls for it.  Many of the outdoor sequences contain terrific ambient presence in the surrounds.  Discrete effects are not readily apparent but pop up here and there.  The dynamic range is decent, but not expansive.  The subwoofer is there, but hardly noticeable.  It blends in nicely with the rest of the soundscape.  The audio track is solid for the genre of film.

There is not much in the way of special features.  The information present in the special features is good, however, I was expecting more considering the film’s basis in a true story.  There is a picture-in-picture track, which contains cast and crew interviews over the course of the film.  “Los Angeles: Then and Now” is a feature much akin to ones found on “L.A. Confidential.”  The featurette contains information about the visual history of the city.  The Archives is a collection of documents and still images about the real-life individuals behind the story.  “Partners in Crime: Clint Eastwood and Angelina Jolie” is a making of featurette about the pre-production and production design of the film.  “The Common Thread: Angelina Jolie Becomes Christine Collins” take a look at the real Christine Collins.  Finally, the film is enhanced with BD-Live functionality.

“Changeling” is a well-made film.  There are numerous parts that seem too long.  However, the film’s visual style is terrific and the acting is great.  The video and audio quality are more than adequate, but don’t expect a flashy presentation.

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