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Blu-ray Review: Changeling

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Since 2003’s Mystic River, Clint Eastwood’s career has been nothing short of stunning. That’s not necessarily because his films are masterpieces, but because he continually one-ups himself in terms of quality. Changeling is his latest, a fantastic, gripping, and at times unnerving story of a mother desperately searching for her missing son with help from almost no one in a position to do so.

Angelina Jolie is at her best since her underrated performance in A Mighty Heart, playing Christine Collins. After her son turns up missing from her home, the corrupt 1920s Los Angeles Police Department find a child, but it’s not hers. Despite Collins' certainty that this boy is not her own, the police write her off as crazy, fearing negative publicity.

Her struggle makes for outstanding cinema, with Jolie at the center. Her performance is gut-wrenching, at times hard to watch in a positive way. It’s impossible not to get behind her cause 100%, even as she lashes out at the wrong people. It’s also hard to believe this could happen to anyone, especially to this degree, but a script by J. Michael Stracyznski always pulls you into the story.

Eastwood’s direction is, as always, superb. Pacing is excellent despite the film nearing the 150-minute mark. No scenes are wasted, and the opening 20 minutes are mesmerizing as the saga begins to unfold. A fantastic supporting cast is filled with characters who serve their purpose, including a fine performance from John Malkovich as one of the few people who stand up for Collins.

Every moment of Changeling makes for top tier drama. If there was ever a woman who deserved this type of star treatment, it was Christine Collins, and Eastwood delivers a film worthy of her cause. Whether you’re a fan of Eastwood’s work or not, Changeling is still a film worthy of your time.

Universal delivers an inconsistent VC-1 encode for this Blu-ray release. At times, it’s incredibly rich with detail, vibrant with its contrast, and razor sharp. Other times, it’s an over-processed mess, filled with light edge enhancement and dull blacks. Then again, flesh tones have a mind of their own, and some brief minor artifacting can be seen around the two-hour mark, so maybe the digital side of things does win out. Depending on the scene, this is either a high-end disc or a severe digital miscalculation.

Despite being a dialogue-driven drama, this is a DTS-HD Master mix worth listening to. Ambiance is outstanding. Camera flashes can be heard as reporters take their photos, trains are accurately tracked in each channel as the scene changes, cars on the street honk horns, and indoor crowd scenes envelope the entire sound field. While there is little in the way of work for the subwoofer, the surround and stereo channels are constantly active, making this a pleasant surprise.

Despite a few Oscar nods, Universal releases a bare bones Blu-ray, undoubtedly for a re-release later should this win anything. "Partners in Crime" is a 13 minute making-of that delves into some of the real life details of the case, but it’s too short to make much of an impact. "The Common Thread" is about Jolie’s transformation into Collins, and like the other featurette, doesn’t do much at under five minutes.

Universal’s aggravating U-Control is used here, a ridiculous interactive feature that needs to die a quick death. There are three separate threads to this presentation, including the typical picture-in-picture featurettes that rarely last more than a minute. Archives includes original documents pertaining to the case, arguably the best of the three options. Finally, "LA Then and Now" is a comparison of the city now as opposed to what it looks like in the film.

All of these require flipping to a specific section of the movie to access, waiting for an icon to pop up, and then hitting a button to indicate you want to see it. If you have the feature on, why wouldn’t you want to see it? It’s annoying to select, say, an archive feature, select the scene, wait for it to load, and then see a single picture. Wow. That’s interactivity at its worst. Please Universal, dump U-Control. Finally, the disc is BD-Live enabled, but not currently working as of this writing.

Ron Howard was originally set to direct, but a scheduling conflict prevented him from doing so. Instead, he took on a producer role and suggested Angelina Jolie for the lead role despite Hilary Swank and Reese Witherspoon close to being cast.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.