Eastwood and Jolie Deliver in Changeling

Mia Becker

Director Clint Eastwood and superstar actress Angelina Jolie tell a compelling true story of justice, hope, and unconditional love, in the movie Changeling.

Angelina Jolie plays Christine Collins, a single mother who lives in Los Angeles in the late 1920s with her nine-year-old son, Walter Collins. On the brisk afternoon of March 9, 1928, Christine Collins returns home from work to find her son Walter missing. The ‘missing persons’ complaint is documented immediately on Mar. 10, and a six-month search for Walter ensues.

In August, a boy that fits the description of Walter Collins is patched through and brought to California. Upon the boy’s return, Christine confidently states that the returned boy is not her son Walter. However, the Los Angeles Police Department believes she is just in a state of shock, and that they have not made a mistake of the boy’s identity. Christine Collins takes the boy home, but gains concrete evidence that the found boy (later identified as Arthur Hutchins) is not Walter. Factual reports show the returned boy is three to four inches shorter than Walter Collins, had different dental records, and is circumcised (Walter Collins was not).
Christine Collins continuously fights with the LAPD to continue the search for her son Walter. After months of conflict, the head of the juvenile department, Captain J. J. Jones, sentences Christine Collins to confinement in a local mental institution. She is only allowed to be released if she goes against her accusations and negative statements against the LAPD. Collins refuses, and is locked under continued confinement, but she is soon released when a young boy, Sanford Clark, tells police of a round of murders nearby in Riverside, Calif. It is discovered that Walter Collins was one of the captured boys, and Christine’s claims were true all along.

The kidnapping, abuse, and brutal murders of at least 20 young boys by Gordon Northcott, is known as the Wineville Chicken Coupe Murders. The case is documented as one of the most brutal murders in the state of California’s history. Northcott was captured in Canada in September 1928, and was killed by a sentenced hanging in October 1930. Further investigations in the case of Walter Collins, and “The Chicken Coupe Murders” continued after the trial, as police attempted to find more evidence. In 1935, a boy who had been captured by Northcott in 1928, returned home to his elated parents after seven years. The boy confirmed that Walter Collins had indeed been captured along side him, at the Wineville Coupe, and was shot while escaping. It was never known if Walter escaped, or died nearby. While Christine Collins remained hopeful, her son’s remains were never found.

The emotional drama is a story about women’s rights, civil rights, and justice. Christine Collins fought the system, and gained many supporters in her case (Christine Collins vs. State of California). One of her greatest supporters, and confidants, was Rev. Gustav Briegleb (played by John Malkovich), an outspoken Presbyterian Minster, who spoke often about corruption in the government and political system.

Clint Eastwood, with the exception of a few spotty transitions, creates an otherwise well-organized, moving, and balanced film. In between the intense drama, and emotional rollercoaster of Christine Collins’ story, the script includes some dry black humor that brings some light into such a dark and scary topic.

Angelina Jolie brings a deep, and strong, award winning performance to the likes of her past films Gia and Girl, Interrupted. Jolie spoke of the film and character in You Magazine, “I was wacko, emotionally, during this one,” she said, “I just couldn’t get the story out of my head…Inside our scripts they included newspaper stories about the case from 1928. To know that this really happened and to see the actual evidence of it is incredible…It’s too bizarre to be true.”

While Oscar nominations are looming, many predict that Jolie and Eastwood will be considered worthy of the highest nominations. I’m sure Clint Eastwood will re-enact his 2005 Oscar sweep with wins in Best Director and Best Film (Drama).