This film's release signaled the beginning of the Oscar 'season' for film goers. Just before and around Christmas time is the period when the studios start releasing their films that have serious aspirations for Oscar nominations. A film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angelina Jolie has to automatically be put in that category. After the names of the nominees were announced Angelina Jolie's was on the Best Actress list while nominations were also granted to Cinematography and Art Direction.
Single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie – Wanted, Girl, Interrupted) has to go into work on the weekend, so she leaves her 9-year-old son, Walter (Gattlin Griffith – appeared in episodes of Monk and Eli Stone), alone at home with a neighbour to look in on him. Arriving at home that evening Walter is nowhere to be found and a panicky Christine calls the police only to be told that they have to wait 24 hours before declaring him a missing persons.
After months of searching for her son the police tell Christine that they have found him. Excitedly she meets his train and is disappointed and shocked to discover the boy (Devon Conti) is not her son. Convinced by police Captain Jones (Jeffrey Donovan – Hitch) that she is merely confused and that the boy is her son, Christine takes the boy home knowing in her heart he is not Walter.
Not willing to give up hope of the police finding her real son, Christine continues to insist that the boy is not hers and that the Los Angeles police should continue looking for Walter. Trying to cover up their botch up the police Captain has Christine committed to a mental institute to try and keep her quiet. They keep up the charade that this imposter is Christine's Walter.
Christine finds an ally in the Reverend Briegleb (John Malkovich – Dangerous Liaisons, Burn After Reading), they take on the L.A. police force with Christine's continuing fight to find her son. The results, legal and in the police department, caused an uproar in Los Angeles.
This thriller set in the 1920s and 30s is based on a true story and that makes it even harder to stomach. You will not believe what this Los Angeles resident had to go through in the search for her missing son. Eastwood is daring enough to expose this type of corruption in the LAPD and Jolie carries the film with plenty of tears and determination. Harrowing film to watch for any parent.
There are some frustrating things about the film, such as, I wasn't as moved by Christine Collins' plight as I wanted to be nor was I as disgusted by the serial killer as I should have been. There is no denying that each thing was unbelievable, but I did not make as deep a connection as I would have liked to…or that the story deserved.
No blame should be laid up Angelina's frail shoulders (she looked quite gaunt in the film) as she gives one of the better performances of an already impressive career. She renders Christine Collins a strong and sophisticated woman despite all that is happening to her. Jolie even manages to keep it realistic during the odd insane asylum scenes. They don't really fit in with the rest of the film, but her restrained performance makes them believable.
In the fact that 2008 was a weak year in films this one stands out amongst them as a film that is trying to say something and has a stand out performance.
– Partners in Crime: Clint Eastwood and Angelina Jolie
-The Common Thread: Angelina Jolie Becomes Christine Collins