changeling by clint eastwood

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Sunday, November 9th, 2008

changeling by clint eastwood

yesterday, christen and finally had a chance to see clint eastwood’s new movie, changeling, starring angelina jolie and john malkovich. from the first time i saw this trailer and knew that eastwood was directing, i was looking forward to seeing it. in the past several years, a clint eastwood directed movie probably meant that i would enjoy. particularly in the case of 2003’s mystic river and 2004’s million dollar baby (not to mention 2006’s flags of our fathers and letters from iwo jima), eastwood has created moving and timeless classics.

quick synopsis: **CONTAINS SPOILERS** christine collins (angelina jolie) shows up from work one day to find that her 9-year old son, walter, had been abducted. after countless dead-ends over several months with the corrupt and p.r.-driven lapd, she learns that her son has been found in illinois. staging a press event, the corrupt police captain brings her to the train station, only to find that the boy they have brought her is not her son. overwhelmed with emotions and unsure how to respond to the police pressure, even though she knows this is not her son, she brings him home and begins the process of collecting information to prove to the lapd that this is, in fact, not her son. when she presses the issue—along with the help of an outspoken pastor (john malkovich)—she is subjected to a week in the county psych ward, where she is promised she can leave when she clears the lapd of any wrongdoing. after discovering that her son was, in fact, the victim of a local child serial killer, she is released and thereafter pursues legal action against the lapd. in the end, collins is never reunited with her young son, but continued to search for him until the day she died.
ok…now that that’s out of the way… on to some observations.
1. first of all, this movie, like the other eastwood flicks i mentioned earlier, was incredible. great story (true story, at that). great directing and acting. beautifully shot.
2. speaking of beautifully shot…this movie was, well, beautifully shot. one of the things i love about eastwood’s recent movies is the shadowy, desaturated palette he uses. of course, some of the credit goes to eastwood’s cinematographer, tom stern, but the palette was largely eastwood’s brainchild. the palette, which was also used by stern in all the aforementioned eastwood movies, is so palpable it could be listed as another actor.
3. john malkovich brilliantly portrayed reverend gustav briegleb. briegleb, who pastored st. paul’s presbyterian church in l.a., was an outspoken advocate for civil rights and regularly challenged the lapd on their corruption. by all means, i’m not one of these angry fundamentalist christians who is always harping on how christians are portrayed in the media. certainly, a broad consensus could probably agree that media depictions of christians aren’t all that great, but in fairness, it is often deserved. in this case, though, briegleb was the hero. he was the champion of justice and did it all with eloquence, bravery and intelligence. it was such a refreshing way to see a christian and moreover, a pastor, portrayed in a movie. one of the cornerstones of the christian faith ought to be social justice and being an advocate for the oppressed, but that is often forgotten in the christian community and, likewise, in the media.
4. finally, in the movie, eastwood gruesomely depicted an execution by hanging. leading up to the scene, i assumed it would be handled the same way as a sex scene of t.v. that is, to say, that it would be primarily innuendo as the camera pans away at the moment. in this case, you watched every last detail of the hanging: the chilling walk up the stairs, the desperate hymn-singing as the noose was placed around the prisoner’s head, the cold onlook of the victims’ families, the silent anticipation of the fall and, most disturbing, the despairing twitching and flailing in the fleeting seconds of the hanging prisoner’s life. it was truly disturbing in its cold and objective portrayal of the execution.
i really can’t remember if i’ve talked about it on the blog before, but one of the things i feel most passionate about is the sad injustice that is state-sanctioned executions. this is one of the saddest and lowest things in our society. i believe it breaks the heart of god and therefore, should break our hearts. i don’t care if someone has stolen a couple dollars or murdered an entire village of people, no one deserves to die at the hands of another man. life and death is a matter of god—not you and i. watching the gruesome scene in the movie only reinforced my feelings. whether it’s hanging, electric chair, lethal injection or whatever, the death penalty is inhumane, cruel and unusual.
our country is a long way from a moratorium on the death penalty, but i believe this could be one of the areas where the church could join together and create a cultural movement of change. unfortunately, whereas most of the denominations in the u.s. have officially condemned the death penalty (methodists, episcopalians, lutherans, mennonites and others), the largest and unfortunately, most politically influential (southern baptist convention) has repeatedly wrongly sanctioned the death penalty, stating that it is directly sanctioned by god through the noahic covenant. so, sadly, the church, like in other important matters, is largely divided, with the largest denomination leading the way in the division.
oh wait…apparently my nice little review of changeling has be pre-empted by my soapbox issue…what a surprise.
ok, so, you can take this away from this blog: don’t kill people and go see changeling. 🙂

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