Sometimes Finding the Truth is Harder Than Facing It.
"A rare blend of emotional content and intelligent material that makes it simultaneously gut-wrenching and thought-provoking. Claudia Puig, USA Today
|Mike Deerfield returns to the U.S. after his tour of duty in Iraq in abruptly goes missing. His father Hank (Tommy Lee Jones), a spit-and-polish ex-MP from the Vietnam era, goes looking for him. What he finds goes to the heart of American combat experiences in the Iraqi conflict.|
Academy Award-winning Crash filmmaker Paul Haggis teams with Oscar-winning actors Jones, Charlize Theron, and Susan Sarandon in a probing and powerful look at a nation and the young soldiers it sends into battle. Hank's quest lays bare a tangled web of cover-up, murder, mystery and profound revelation about the personal costs of war.
"A deeply reflective, quietly powerful work that is as timely as it is moving. Michael Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter
"...the first Hollywood Iraq movie to remind me of a Vietnam film like Coming Home... Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
"Transcends politics and forces us to consider just what it is we ask of young people who answer the call to duty Shawn Levy, Portland Oregonian
"...an effective, disturbing and - a rarity for Haggis - subtle exploration of the stateside war story. Tamara Straus, San Francisco Chronicle
Tommy Lee Jones plays Hank Deerfield, a retired military man investigating the mysterious disappearance of his soldier son, Mike, in this somber mystery-drama from director Paul Haggis (CRASH). Charlize Theron is the civilian homicide cop in the small town near the base where Mike recently returned from a term of combat in Iraq. When this unlikely pair ends up investigating the mystery together, they encounter some suspicious covering-up from the army. Deerfield gets access to his son's camera phone which contains startling video footage from combat overseas. Using a muted palette of military browns and greens, Haggis shows the same sharp eye for humanistic detail that served him so well in CRASH, infusing desolate scenes of civilian life--sterile concrete barracks, sleazy strip clubs, homey but empty diners, drugs, fast food joints, and ghostly motels--with vivid detail. Performances are all Oscar-worthy: Jones's craggy, weather-beaten face hiding grief and anguish beneath a steely facade until they threatens to boil over. His mug becomes a symbol for an America with no other choice but to confront its own grave flaws if it's ever to find any answers. Susan Sarandon bring the pain to the surface as the anguished mother waiting at home, and Theron is strong and sure, as a single mother who bravely faces, among other challenges, harassment in the workplace. Josh Brolin is her ex, the chief of police, and Jason Patric and James Franco are among the impassive faces of the military.
Cast & Crew
||Oscar, Tommy Lee Jones, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
||Venice Film Festival, Paul Haggis, SIGNIS Award
||Venice Film Festival, Paul Haggis, Golden Lion Award
"[A] lacerating, bone-deep inquiry into the war in Iraq....Tense, urgent, and meditative." -- Grade: A
3.5 stars out of 4 -- "IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH is a rare blend of emotional content and intelligent material that makes it simultaneously gut-wrenching and thought-provoking."
New York Times
"Underneath its deceptively quiet surface is a raw, angry earnest attempt to grasp the moral consequences of the war in Iraq..."
3 stars out of 4 -- "The spare, ingrained purity of Jones' work...is astonishing....Haunting, heart-piercing...essential."
4 stars out of 5 -- "Jones presents another memorable essay in morally compromised machismo..."
3 stars out of 5 -- "Tommy Lee Jones' performance as Hank Deerfield, a former Army sergeant and Vietnam veteran...gives the film its compelling motor..."
4 stars out of 5 -- "A personal take on universal injustices, free from preachiness....[I]t's Jones' film to its boots....It's the subtle variations that make him a joy to watch."
ReelViews 7 of 10
The last scene of In the Valley of Elah may be the most ridiculously ham-fisted and over-the-top moment in all of 2007's supposed prestige cinema. This image is so blatant and cheesy that it makes one wonder whether director Paul Haggis' success with Crash was some kind of fluke. In fact, the film as a whole raises that question. Crash was not the most subtle film, but its clever structure and finely tuned character moments camouflaged many of its weaknesses. The same cannot be said of In the Valley of Elah, which takes two hours to make an oh-so-obvious point: war dehumanizes human beings...The effective scenes in In the Valley of Elah are the character-based ones - the quiet instances when fine actors like Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, and Susan Sarandon are allowed to perform...The film's title comes from the location of the Biblical struggle between David and Goliath, and could be symbolic of a number of things. But, like a lot of other elements in this movie, using "The Valley of Elah" as a symbol is a jumbled association. The more one thinks about it, the less sense it makes. Less consideration is necessary to make the same deduction about the movie as a whole.
- James Berardinelli
Chicago Sun-Times 10 of 10
Paul Haggis' "In the Valley of Elah" is built on Tommy Lee Jones' persona, and that is why it works so well. The same material could have been banal or routine with an actor trying to be "earnest" and "sincere." Jones isn't trying to be anything at all. His character is simply compelled to do what he does, and has a lot of experience doing it. He plays a Vietnam veteran named Hank Deerfield, now hauling gravel in Tennessee. He gets a call from the Army that his son Mike, just returned from a tour in Iraq, is AWOL from his squad at Fort Rudd. That sounds wrong. He tells his wife, Joan (Susan Sarandon), that he's going to drive down there and take a look into things. "It's a two-day drive," she says. He says, "Not the way I'll drive it"...Those who call "In the Valley of Elah" anti-Iraq war will not have been paying attention. It doesn't give a damn where the war is being fought. Hank Deerfield isn't politically opposed to the war. He just wants to find out how his son came all the way home from Iraq and ended up in charred pieces in a field. Because his experience in Vietnam apparently had a lot to do with crime investigation, he's able to use intelligence as well as instinct. And observe how Theron, as the detective, observes him, takes what she can use and adds what she draws from her own experience.
- Roger Ebert