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In The Valley of Elah (2007) R 121 min

September 11th, 2008 by Maxim · No Comments · 5,752 Views


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In The Valley of ElahThis crime drama is based a true story by Mark Boal and published in Playboy Magazine. Written, directed and produced by Paul Haggis (Letters from Iwo Jima Crash and Million Dollar Baby) and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Josh Brolin and Jason Patric. 

The plot: When his son is reported AWOL after his tour of duty in Iraq, his father, retired military investigator Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones). Soon a dismembered and burned body of his son is found on the road side near his military base at Fort Rudd in Tennessee. With the help of detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron) he investigates his son’s death while facing antagonism between the Army investigators led by investigator Lt. Kirklander (Jason Patric)  and local police. The investigation comes to a dead end, and the only thing that can help uncover the truth are some poor-quality videos and some credit card receipts.

The good: Tommy Lee Jones has received an Oscar nomination for his role in this movie. He plays a veteran who investigates the brutal killing of his son – second son he and his wife lost on military duty. Amazingly strong acting by him and Susan Sarandon (in a short appearance), especially in the scene where each one of them see the remains of their son. Very complex plot – a great mystery. Also, line in “Stop Loss” we see more effects the PTSD has on soldiers who served in Iraq. The movie shows how soldiers become numb to death, killing and violence. The movie is slow, but it is never boring. It’s only 1 hour 40 minutes long. Many critics complained about it’s slowness, but I think the DVD cut is very good – the pace of the movie is just proper to soak the drama in. Some critics said that movies about how war messes with soldiers minds, such as Apocalypse Now, Casualties of War, Redacted, Deer Hunter, Full Metal Jacket have already been done too many times, so this one is a cliché, but it’s not. It’s very original, in part because the director doesn’t show his political views, but also because it shows how innocence is lost and how war and fear corrupt the soul.

The bad: Charlize Theron seems miscast, but she does a good job. The movie creates the impression that all soldiers in Iraq are messed up, which probably isn’t true, but Haggis may have believed that this particular group of soldiers was. More importantly, he makes the point. The movie flopped at the box office.

DVD special features:

  • In The Valley of Elah: Documentary (about how the movie was made)

The summary: A powerful, heartbreaking and moving drama based on real events about how war affects soldiers while they are in active duty or home. Great acting.

The cast: Hank Deerfield - Tommy Lee Jones | Det. Emily Sanders - Charlize Theron | Joan Deerfield - Susan Sarandon | Lt. Kirklander - Jason Patric | Sgt. Dan Carnelli – James Franco | Arnold Bickman – Barry Corbin | Chief Buchwald - Josh Brolin | Mike Deerfield – Jonathan Tucker

The crew: Director – Paul Haggis | Screenplay – Paul Haggis | Story – Mark Boal, Paul Haggis | Producers – Paul Haggis, Laurence Becsey, Darlene Caamano, David Garrett, Dana Maksimovich, Patrick Wachsberger and others | Original Music – Mark Isham (Crash, Rules Of Engagement, Lions For Lambs etc.)

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Rated 5/5 on Sep 11 2008
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Tags: Crime/Gangster · Drama · Movies · Thrillers/Suspense

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