Eastwood continues success with Jolie drama

Universal Pictures

Release date: Oct. 24

At 78, Clint Eastwood has hit such a late-career stride that he reliably generates awards buzz with every new project. “Changeling,” his grave, expansive account of kidnapping, murder and police corruption in 1920s Los Angeles, was warmly received at Cannes. But the film opened in October to respectfully mixed reviews, even from longtime Eastwood partisans.

Eastwood is still beloved by the Academy, however, and “Changeling” boasts the kind of prestigious pedigree and classical artistry that command voter attention. Based on the real-life case of Christine Collins, whose search for her missing son led her into a battle with the city itself (as laid out in J. Michael Straczynski’s meticulously researched screenplay), the film delivers a ferocious if morally uncomplicated expose of institutional injustice that has drawn comparisons to “Chinatown” and “L.A. Confidential” — hardly the worst company on Oscar night.

Above all, “Changeling” is a showcase for Angelina Jolie’s emotionally unbridled performance as Collins, which may earn her the actress nom many felt she deserved for last year’s “A Mighty Heart.” She’s lent strong support from John Malkovich (last nommed for 1994’s “In the Line of Fire”) as a crusading preacher.

Shot in muted colors by regular Eastwood d.p. Tom Stern, plushly outfitted by production designer James J. Murakami, edited by Joel Cox and Gary Roach, and scored with typical spareness by Eastwood, pic looks ripe for craft recognition regardless of how it fares in the top categories. As with 2006’s “Letters From Iwo Jima” and “Flags of Our Fathers,” Eastwood may be his own worst competition: His latest, “Gran Torino,” opens in December.

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