I watch all of Clint Eastwood’s recent movies and I always feel they are High Quality Films, but that’s not always my thing. They are oscar-friendly, but not really affecting (exception: Million Dollar Baby) and don’t have anything fascinating to contribute in content (exception: Flags of Our Fathers) or form. But I definitely like ’em enough to keep watching (possible exception: Gran Torino).
We’ve got a true-story historical drama here, with awesome period street scenes of 1928 L.A., nice cinematography, great music (by Eastwood himself!) and very good acting. In her first good movie role since Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, A. Jolie plays Christine Collins, a mom whose kid disappears. She reports him missing among mass public distrust in the L.A.P.D., a mistrust led by crusading radio preacher John Malkovich, using his staccato vocal delivery to good effect. Police find kid, but it’s the wrong kid, then when Jolie reports it they intimidate and finally imprison her in a sanitarium to keep people from finding out the truth. Malkie helps get her out, and meanwhile a kid escapes from a rural psycho-killer and reports the murder of twenty kids. Jolie and Malkie lead court fight against the cops, simultaneously kid-killer is prosecuted, she wins, cops go down, killer is found guilty, two years later she watches him hang still unsure whether her own kid was killed or not. In postscript scene, mother of another kidnapped kid finds her son returning home after seven years away, but Jolie still never gets her closure. Saaaad movie.
Manipulative cops include Colm Feore of Titus and TV’s Jeffrey Donovan. Oscar-nom Amy Ryan, who I often see but never recognize, is a prostitute imprisoned with Christine in the sanitarium. Writer J. Michael Straczynski kept me entertained in the 80’s with episodes of He-Man and The Real Ghostbusters, and moved up from there to sci-fi channel to showtime to oscar-nominated films. Good going there, guy.