A grief-stricken mother takes on the LAPD to her own detriment when it stubbornly tries to pass off an obvious impostor as her missing child, while also refusing to give up hope that she will find him one day.
Los Angeles, 1928. A single mother returns from work to find her nine-year-old son gone. She calls the LAPD to initiate a search. Five months later, a boy is found in Illinois who fits the description; he says he's her son. To fanfare and photos, the LAPD reunite mother and son, but she insists he's not her boy. The cops dismiss her as either a liar or hysterical. When she joins a minister in his public criticism of the police, they in turn use government power to silence and intimidate her. Meanwhile, a cop goes to a dilapidated ranch to find a Canadian lad who's without legal status; the youth tells a grisly tale. There's redress for murder; is there redress for abuse of power? Written by
Clint Eastwood is one of the legends of the silver screen, from his humble beginnings as the Man With No Name in Sergio Leone westerns to Dirty Harry the kick-butt cop. As a director, he has given us some of the finest stories we could ever see, including the Oscar-winning Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, and the war epic twins Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima. With his new film, he explores the dark side of the earlier part of the twentieth century in Tinseltown (Los Angeles). Taken from true events, the story unfolds that a single mother Christine Collins has lost her nine-year old son, Walter. She asks the LAPD to intervene, and about two months later, her son is returned. Then, she says it isn't her son. She never looks back.
From the moment the young boy steps off the train, Christine insists to everyone that he is not her son. Unfortunately, the police say she is delusional and just upset. The films leads to the truth of the matter, which is that the corruption in the department has led to them being lackadaisical in their duties. The story moves along fluidly, yet we are never really told the reason that corruption resides.
Nevertheless, the film is quite an experience. It looks terrific and really feels like the 1920s in Los Angeles. Angelina Jolie is solid as Christine, yet I felt she seemed more whiny at times than desperate. It just didn't move me as strongly as Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. The supporting cast is good as well, especially John Malkovich as the pastor eager to help Christine in the fight against the LAPD. What I really wanted was that emotional pull that Eastwood's other films had. This one seemed a bit cold and ruthless, despite that being its subject material. So, I would say to go and see it; it is definitely worth the 140 minutes. As for Oscar time, I can't say for sure that it will wrap up the big ones such as Best Picture, Director or Actress. It wasn't the strongest campaign I've seen, but then again this has been a weaker year than 2007.
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