Something more than a child goes missing in Clint Eastwood’s tale casting Angelina Jolie as a real-life single mom whose young son vanishes in 1928.
On the surface, the film has all the rich atmosphere and evocative detail of his recent Oscar offerings. Yet, it lacks the emotional depth and nuance of that string of films marking Eastwood’s remarkable late-career resurgence. Instead, Eastwood slips back toward the workmanlike storytelling of his decade between “Unforgiven” and “Mystic River” — sturdily made movies that ranged from passably engaging to completely forgettable, and mostly hollow at heart.
Jolie stars as Christine Collins, who becomes a victim of nightmarish persecution by corrupt Los Angeles police handling the case of her vanished boy. As the story grows bigger and more horrific, Eastwood and screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski lose focus, their sharp portrait of a mother facing the worst possible loss swallowed by a scattered, one-note melodrama of a lone saint battling a den of demons.
Amy Ryan and John Malkovich offer solid support, but Jeffrey Donovan and Colm Feore are caricatures of evil as police officials crucifying Collins.
R for some violent and disturbing content, and language
(out of four)