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Oscar®Oscar® Nominee for Best Actress in a leading role, Best Cinematography, and Best Art Direction
Movie Review

Changeling a.k.a. “The Exchange,” “The Changeling”

MPAA Rating: R for some violent and disturbing content, and language.

Reviewed by: Thaisha Geiger
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Thriller, Mystery, History, Drama
Length:
2 hr. 20 min.
Year of Release:
2008
USA Release:
October 24, 2008 (5 theater opening)
October 31, 2008 (wider)
DVD: February 17, 2009
Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

About murder in the Bible

Fear, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer

Death

How can I be and feel forgiven? Answer

If God forgives me every time I ask, why do I still feel so guilty? Answer

Forgiveness of sin

Featuring: Angelina Jolie, Gattlin Griffith, Michelle Gunn, Jan Devereaux, Erica Grant, Antonia Bennett, Kerri Randles, Frank Wood, Morgan Eastwood, Madison Hodges, John Malkovich, Colm Feore, Devon Conti, Ric Sarabia, J.P. Bumstead, Jeffrey Donovan, [more]
Director: Clint Eastwood
Producer: Imagine Entertainment, Malpaso Productions, Relativity Media, Clint Eastwood, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Geyer Kosinski, Robert Lorenz, Tim Moore, Jim Whitaker
Distributor: Universal Pictures

“A true story—to find her son, she did what no one else dared.”

Based on true events, “Changeling” shows what one mother endured in search for her son amidst a corrupt police department. Angelina Jolie leaves her past violent, sexual roles at the door, as she expertly plays Christina Collins, the mother of the missing child.

In March 1928, Christina Collins (Angelina Jolie) was a single mother working long hours in a telephone company. Her true joy in life was her nine-year-old son Walter. After having to fill in for a sick employee on a Sunday morning, Christina makes her son lunch and promises she’ll return before dark. Keeping her word, she returns to find the lunch untouched and Walter mysteriously gone.

For five months, Christina regularly calls the police and different children’s centers to no avail. One day her dreams come true, when the police confirm that they have indeed found her son. Rushing to the train center, Christina looks in horror as a strange boy is said to be her son. The detective convinces her that she is in shock and that the boy’s trauma has altered his appearance. Christina reluctantly agrees to give it some time.

With each passing day, Christina is more convinced that the boy is not her son, when she sees physical differences and confirmation from Walter’s teacher and dentist. Not wanting to become exposed, the corrupt police department keeps denying Christina’s credibility and eventually throws her into a psychiatric hospital. The town’s most violent serial murders are also uncovered and potentially serve as a connection to the missing Walter.

The acting in the film is phenomenal. Angelina Jolie successfully brings believability to Christina Collins. At a time when women were viewed as inferior, Jolie brings targeted vulnerability with her silent tears and perfectly acted scenes.

Clint Eastwood once again succeeds in creating another strong movie to add to his string of successes. The film’s biggest weakness is its long running time. After the film’s climax, the film continues for another hour. Eastwood helps the hour go by easier by skillfully pacing the remaining scenes. However, most suspense goes away after the finding of the serial killer.

Offensive Content

Surprisingly, “Changeling” is a very mild ‘R’ film. I have seen far worse in PG-13. There were only about 15 uses of profanity, including 3 GDs and 3 ‘f’ words. While in the asylum, Christina tells the corrupt doctor “f__k you and the horse you rode in on.”

When Christina was getting checked into the asylum, she is hosed down and is obviously nude. The entire time she covers her breasts with her hands. In one brief scene, one could faintly see her derriere through the steam. A nurse then spreads Christina’s legs while she examines her privates. The actual examination is not shown, but the camera does linger on Jolie’s face as she suffers through the procedure. I did not find the hosing scene offensive, but historically accurate. I believe Clintwood did a tasteful job in truly demonstrating the humiliation and unethical treatment many mental patients had to endure during the 1920s.

The violence is what perhaps pushed the movie over to an ‘R’ rating. Some men are shown being shot. No blood is shown; they only collapse. The film deals with a child serial killer, and the thought of a child being murdered is very disturbing. While no child is shown actually being axed, Eastwood inserts flashbacks where the killer was bloody, swinging an axe. In the end, the killer is shown to be hung.

The aforementioned offenses were not the most disturbing; the entire plot about police corruption and what Christina Collins had to endure is what makes the film dark. At a time when women faced opposition, Christina had to suffer through mental torture, knowing that the boy delivered to her was not her son. Against all odds, she never gave up hope and suffered for her belief. She had an unwavering hope that other’s believed to be foolish and worthless.

Christians are commanded to forgive people who seek forgiveness. While the concept is good, it is extremely easy to become fed up with people’s repeated, unchanging misconducts. After a few wrongs, we might look at those people and give up all hope, believing them to already be doomed. At those times, we should grateful for God’s everlasting patience and grace. How many times have we messed up and believed that God surely could not forgive us now?

When we truly lose ourselves and want to return to God’s embrace, we should remember the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. After hastily spending all of his inheritance, the selfish son became poor and realized how he sinned against his father. Rather than starving, he decided to swallow his pride and go back to his father. From a distance, the father saw his son returning, and joyfully ran to his son and “threw his arms around him and kissed him.” The father quickly set up a massive feast, celebrating the fact that his son once “was lost and [now] is found.”

God is that forgiving father and always wants us to return to Him. If you have done something wrong and do not believe that the Lord can forgive you, know that He will. If you truly seek forgiveness and want to return to Him, He will gladly accept you back.

After being disappointed about Jolie’s role in “Wanted,” this film was a refreshing reminder of her extraordinary acting talent. She is what carried the film throughout. If you are curious about this movie, it is one of the cleaner ones to come out. However, one should note the emotional heaviness of the film. It is not a movie that young children should see; the hanging and the hosing scene were troubling. Secondly, the ending remains accurate to the true-life story, so viewers will not leave with a happy-go-lucky feeling when exiting the theatre.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This is a very moving film. The acting and direction are some of the best I’ve seen. Clint Eastwood is truely at the top of his game. Angelina Jolie and John Malchovich give powerful performances. The subject matter is disturbing. This is a TRUE STORY, otherwise I might dismiss the movie as demented. There is no sex, the female charcters use profanity and the f-word is said a couple of times. The violence is heavy. If you like Eastwood’s recent movies, especially Mystic River, you’ll like this.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Mike Belcher, age 30
Positive—If a person died, usually there is a closure, but when the person is missing and is a child, there is much more emotional and mental psychological effect. From the moment CHANGELING flickers onto the screen in black and white circa 1928 Los Angeles, and we see Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), an independent single mother who truly treasured her son, against hope, we want her and her son to reunite.

Based on actual events from the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, director Clint Eastwood is impeccable of sending us back in time when the milkman still delivered milk to the door step, and actress Angelina Jolie have the right looks and the nuance performance of a troubled mother should rightly deserves an Oscar.

Despite a production made from people of mostly secular and including atheist John Malkovich and Angelina Jolie with some discerning theological films from both producer Ron Howard and director Clint Eastwood, one of the shining light in the film is from the character Rev. Gustav Briegleb, who used his radio broadcast to point out the political corruption of the L.A.P.D.

There is a moment of semi-resolve where the Rev. Gustav (John Malkovich) tells Christine to move on because they have won the battle over the corrupted L.A.P.D., but she was reluctant because the fate of her child was still a mystery. He tells her that he believed they would all be reunited “in that place” where they all will be together for all time. Eastwood has stated that he used John Malkovich to play against type to bring in “a different shading,” therefore there was no Heaven mentioned nor the Lord Jesus’ name spoken of.

With todays wealth of informations and knowledges, a lot of films have depicted men in uniforms as despicable predators from the law offices to the administration of doctors and the clergymen of the church. It is good to see the film portrayed a man of the cloth as an upright citizen and some officers actually do the right thing and a dentist who is willing to put his findings in paper. All of these people come to the aid of a single, individual mother who would have given up, and they, themselves are just as such, one person.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Mang Yang, age 36
Positive—This is an incredible film about one woman’s struggle to find the son that was kidnapped and presumed dead.

The movie could’ve done away with the cuss words, and it would be fine. I totally agree with the reviewer on the morality rating of the film.

I also believe that Miss Jolie should receive an Oscar nomination for her performance as Christine Collins.

It’s a great film but incredibly disturbing. I would suggest that parents watch the film first before allowing their kids to see it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Shannon, age 27
Positive—This movie was a lesson in the ability of an organization of power to abuse the trust given to it by the people. I had no idea that the LAPD was so grossly corrupt back in the 20s and 30s. Other agencies provided by the government for the purpose of serving the community were also terribly misguided and crooked. What a powerful story told by Clint Eastwood. I thought he was a great actor. He seems to be an even better director. Angelina Jolie was brilliant in her portrayal of Christine Collins as a distraught mother who had the fortitude to fight this demented police department, all the while frantically searching for her son. Beware, though. Some themes are very intense with scenes of implied, though not shown outright, guesome acts of violence. My wife was shaken by some of the movie. However, it is important to watch as a lesson in how unchecked power can devestate individuals, families, whole communities and countries.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jim, age 42
Positive—I enjoyed watching this movie, based on a true story, with excellent acting from Angelina Jolie. …I did find the movie quite violent. There is a scene in which the serial killer is using an axe while killing children and has blood all over his clothes. There is another scene in which the killer is hanged, and you can see him struggle for some time before he finally dies.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Liever, age 41 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—Clint Eastwood directs this period flick. It’s based on a true story, or so the tagline says. I for one haven’t done any additional reading, so I’ll take the tagline with a grain of salt. Hollywood has to embellish the tale so that it fits into that tightly crafted 2 hour window. Real life breaks the fourth wall. Hollywood doesn’t.

Be that as it may, Angelina Jolie gives it her all in what is assuredly her greatest performance to date, imho. As the plot summaries suggest, this is a movie about a 1920s L.A. single mother who loses her son and her subsequent plight to find him. I.e. Jolie. I didn’t know she had it in her.

Without divulging too much, lemme say that on a Christian level, this movie is to be praised. Here’s why. First the violence is handled very tacitly, being quarantined to all of maybe two or three scenes. The language is very sparse… a few strong epithets and a few milder ones. There are no sex scenes (thank you Lord!); the nudity is limited in scope and moreover, far from provocative.

Lastly, the preacher, a supporting character deftly portrayed by John Malkovich, is a warrior. A fighter who’s not a hypocrite. Remember Jesus showed righteous anger when he flipped the tables (literally) in the temple. David went and beat the tar out of a bear or a lion that absconded with one of his sheep. “And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.” Now, I’m not saying ol’ Malkovich is punching peoples’ lights out. He’s faithful to a fault, preaches the message, and does what a good pastor should: minister to his flock, come to their aid though they may be 1 outta another 99, etc. This guy is presented as a man of action. He cares. Even though Angelina Jolie’s character is not a member of his congregation, he helps her just as though she’s the closest of kin. While she fights the good fight against despair and hopelessness, the preacher man fights the corruption surrounding her untimely events. Incidentally, a recurring motif in the film is “don’t start a fight, but be sure to finish it.”

While this is a REALLY WELL DONE movie, it lacks replay value. It’s a tad long; it has no witty repartee. No epic battles. No timeless romance. All those things that make a movie Dumb & Dumber: lovable. However, Changeling is a solid one time viewing, perhaps a second, if nothing else than for the 1920s aesthetics.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Keenum, age 22 (USA)
Negative

none

Comments from young people
Neutral—I just finished watching “The Changeling,” and I am not really sure what I should be saying about it. I am sixteen years old, and I would just like to say to other people that are my age or younger, that this might not be the movie to watch. To parents that are looking up this movie to see if they should allow their children to watch this movie, I would say that if they are around my age or younger, you should probably not allow them to see this movie. Some of the topics that were discussed in the original review, such as the hosing down, and the physical examination of Christine(Jolie), I did not find offensive. However, something that was mentioned was that it was nice to see a minister in this movie, sort of setting a good example. I would hardly say that he is a role model, especially as a minister. The thing that upset me the most about him was that he swore a couple of times. Of course, being an “R” rated film, I did expect that there would be swearing, but I found it even more offensive when it was coming from a pastor.

This movie is pretty scary, the scenes/flashbacks that are shown of the serial killer are quite disturbing. The fact that it is based on a true story, I would say makes me even more uncomfortable after watching the movie, because it gets me thinking about the fact that there are sick people like that in the world, and it honestly makes me scared. This movie did make me cry, and the actual story I suppose was pretty good. However, there was enough content that was both offensive and unsettling, that I would definitely say that parents should not allow their children to watch this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Mel, age 16 (Canada)
Positive—This movie was very well done! I am not a huge fan of Angelina Jolie, but the acting job that she did was phenomenal! I thought that, overall, the acting was brilliant (even the kids were great!), and the directing that Clint Eastwood did and the writing was amazing. The sad part, as I was watching this movie, was knowing that it was a true story. I was watching in disbelief as I thought of how a person could be so violent with children, and I was very disturbed as they played the flashbacks. But a brilliant job, nonetheless.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Kurt, age 17 (USA)
Positive—I don’t watch dramas often, but I do enjoy them. I am one of the only guys that I know of that actually look forward to viewing such films. I was at a friend’s house for the night, and we went to Blockbuster. Having read Spotlight’s review, I decided it would be a good pick, I was in the mood for a serious film. And it is based on a true story to boot.

I won’t go into too much detail, 1) because the review above does it enough and 2) I don’t want to spoil the enjoyment of seeing the plot unfold onscreen. Of course, enjoyment may not be the right word--this film is very serious, has mature thematic material and is very emotionally disturbing in some moments. I was brought to tears more than once throughout the 2 1/2 hour film. The running length does not deter from the film’s impact however, and in fact strengthens it--taking time to build a story, its characters, and reveal the young boy’s fate.

I highly reccomend this film to anyone 17 and up, even if you’re not a fan of drama. I would NOT reccomend anyone under 17, with the exception of some 16 year olds that are able to take the material seriously, because of the film’s disturbing content. Again, though, the disturbing scenes are emotinal, not physical—though there is a few graphic moments of violence. Watch this film!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Ben Badger, age 17 (USA)
Positive—I thought that this film was a pretty good film. I am somewhat a fan of Angelina Jolie and the one great thing about this movie is that she only cusses about one time. In a lot of her other movies, she cusses quite a bit. This film was good, in that, she never lost hope in finding out the truth about her son. I think this movie is a good film for christians to watch because there is hardly any cussing and violence. It was a great film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Michael, age 17 (USA)
Movie Critics
…‘Changeling’ moves too slowly to engage fully… While the neo-Gothic tale is inherently intriguing, the film should inspire strong emotion, but deliberate pacing and a contained sense of melodrama make it a surprisingly passive experience.
—Claudia Puig, USA Today
4½ stars …‘Changeling’ made me feel sympathy, and then anger, and then back around again. … Eastwood’s telling of this story isn’t structured as a thriller, but as an uncoiling of outrage. …
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…Eastwood and Jolie may not triumph at next year’s Oscar ceremony, but if they’re not on the ballot, I’ll eat my yardstick.
—Chris Knight, National Post
…The truth is better than fiction… watching this picture is an exercise in heavy lifting.
—Rick Groen, The Globe and Mail
…‘Changeling’ unfolds with a melancholy fatalism, a sense of evil so pervasive it takes an act of will to believe that the persistence of goodness can make a difference. … Eastwood makes ‘Changeling’ a hard story to shake off. …
—Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
…The power of Clint Eastwood's ‘Changeling’ stems from the fact that its subject is not just every parent’s worst nightmare but a true story. The squandering of that power stems from the fact that nobody did Clint the favor of losing the film’s last two reels. …
—Barry Paris, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
…Oscar contender… It’s a fascinating if horrifying story…
—Jean Lowerison, San Diego Metropolitan