Isn’t it annoying when you feel weird saying that you like a film when it is so harrowing that you feel kind of wrong? This is one of those. And I mean it. I think this might be the most distressing film I have seen since ‘Schindler’s List‘. So let’s take this easily shall we?
Five months after arriving home from work to find her son missing, Christine Collins is reunited with her son Walter. Only, this little kid isn’t her son. The police are insistent that it is, and no matter how hard she tries to convince him they’re not having any of it. She’s disgraced, ridiculed, committed to a mental health hospital and still, nobody will look for her son. It’s horrible. AND this is a true story! It just makes it all so much worse that this woman can endure such horrible treatment at the hands of law enforcement when all she wants is her son back.
It’s a tragic and horrifying story with some really terrible details going on. Let me tell you, there aren’t many smiles in this movie at all. This is typical Clint Eastwood stuff: grim, dark but with some great performances. Leading the cast in Angelina Jolie, who I’m not usually too fond of. But here, she knocks it out of the park with a phenomenal performance as the distraught mother fighting against the world. Her performance is so powerful and believable that you get all the more angry at the way she is being treated in the film. Fighting on her side though is John Malkovich’s Rev. Gustav Briegleb. He knows the police force are no good and he fights alongside Christine to prove it and take them down. He’s angry but for a good cause and you really root for him in his quest for justice.
On the villainous side of things are Jeffrey Donovan and police Captain Jones and Colm Feore as Chief Davies. The two men are the ones who ruthlessly cast Christine aside in their efforts to make the police force look all good and right. They are cold and mean people and just watching them makes you feel sick. Another not nice person is Jason Butler Harner as Gordon Northcott. To detail his story would be to spoil some of the film, but just know that he’s great at playing a thoroughly creepy and not at all nice guy and it makes you feel very uncomfortable when he’s on screen. Which I guess just means he’s a pretty good actor.
Clint Eastwood is a great director and really knows how to get the tone of his films right. He manages to get the most out of his actors and even the way his films are shot are great. Writer J. Michael Straczynski has done a brilliant job of gathering all the facts and details of the story and presenting them in a way that keeps you guessing for a bit and then on the edge of your seat to find out the rest of the story. Nothing is revealed too soon and the way the characters progress through the story works really well.
Everything about this film is great, but it just feels really weird saying that when it is about such a disturbing and terrible series of events. Eastwood does a great job of keeping everything together and tells a story of one woman’s battle for justice in the best way possible. Even if it does leave you quite unsettled…
JACK’S SCORE: 4/5