A retired military investigator tries to uncover the truth behind
his son's murder following his return from a tour of duty in Iraq.
In the Valley of Elah (2007)
Written and Directed by Paul Haggis
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon,
Jason Patric, Wes Chatham, Josh Brolin, Jake McLoughlin,
Mehcad Brooks, Roman Arabia, Jonathan Tucker,
Wayne Duvall, James Franco
Oscar Nominations - Best Actor (Tommy Lee Jones)
It's hard to watch a film whose focus is essentially the horrors of war and how it turns some men into monsters. Paul Haggis's In the Valley of Elah is a brutally honest story of a Vietnam veteran struggling to understand what happened to his son after he disappeared upon returning from Iraq. It's a film that plays out a bit differently than you'd expect it to, going back and forth from murder mystery to antiwar film. This film paints returning soldiers as damaged, unhinged men who are now able to commit atrocities without provocation because of the horrors they've witnessed and participated in. It's painful to watch at times because of its all too real scenario, but it's an outstanding film nonetheless.
Tommy Lee Jones is in top form as retired military investigator Hank Deerfield, who takes the investigation into his own hands and learns some unsettling truths about his son. Jones has always been typecast as the hardass Texan, but there's something different about his performance in this film. He seems vulnerable, like he could snap at any moment. It's an absolutely stellar performance that reminds audiences why Tommy Lee Jones is one of the most respected actors in the business. The supporting cast is great as well, especially the kids who played the soldiers. All of them had an obvious darkness that was equal parts saddening and disturbing.
In the Valley of Elah is not an uplifting film. It doesn't have a happy ending. It's a film built around closure and the desire to know the truth. It's a fantastic film with a brilliant script and real characters. It doesn't try to use the war to sell movie tickets. It shows what the war is doing to the young men and women who are fighting it. How it changes them. If anything, it's one of the best antiwar movies I've ever seen and after watching it, you'll view the War on Terror in a whole new light.