I didn't expect there to be axe murdering. That was my first reaction of Changeling. Corrupt police departments, electro-therapy, child abduction. I was prepared for these things. I was not prepared for axe murdering. It's a far darker film than I had imagined. When a woman's son disappears the thoroughly corrupt LAPD bring back a different boy in a stab at some good publicity. What follows is a pretty harrowing tale of female disempowerment. With a mental institution full of women that nobody would believe and a doctor prepared to explain how a boy can grow four inches shorter, it paints a damning picture of the police. The narrative follows the structure of 'this is quite sad - it's getting worse now - it can't get any worse than this - oh, yes it can'. And Clint Eastwood, again, makes the whole thing look easy. As the camera follows someone through a farmhouse it makes sure to highlight all the sharp objects. Just a cutaway to a knife on table transforms an entire scene. It's very precise.
Changeling is a film that feels longer than it actually is. Not because it drags, but because the climax happens about four times. As with many films 'based on true events', there's a lot stuffed in here. It's not always easy to watch but it is a powerful film.