In the Valley of Elah

Film

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Jan 22 2008

Loosely adopting the format of the investigative thriller, and inspired by the true story of Lanny Davis and his murdered son as reported by co-scripter Mark Boal in Playboy, Paul Haggis’s second cinematic distress flare – following his race-orientated ‘Crash’ – follows the efforts of retired soldier and ex-military policeman Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones) to determine first the whereabouts then the fate of his missing son, recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. It’s a thoughtful, sincere and moving film, buttressed by a fine, central performance by an actor at the top of his form but one which depends on the viewer’s indulgence in Haggis’s play with genre commitments in favour of wider psychological or even political implications.

As such, its format is closer to the cinema of moral quest – following such great exemplars as John Ford’s ‘The Searchers’ – with aspirations to discuss crises in a country at large through the self-examination of the quester in particular. Thus the most successful scenes are its most domestic and personal: watching Jones folding the sheets military-style in his grotty motel close to the army base in Fort Rudd, New Mexico to which he’s come on an instinct on the news of his son’s disappearance. Without spoiling the film’s revelations, Deerfield is soon entering a personal hell caused by institutional and national forces which he is hesitant at first to acknowledge. That Jones is playing a disciplined, undemonstrative and straight-speaking man of the old-school – ‘It’s the least, I could do,’ says a helper. ‘I’d say that’s correct’, replies Deerfield – makes the actor’s careful gradations of stress, loss and disillusionment all the more moving.

Visually, too, the film is pleasingly coherent, with cinematographer Roger Deakins giving a lonely, mournful aura to the seedy army bars, and lonely New Mexico backlots, while Haggis keeps true to the film’s domestic vision by restricting shots of foreign conflict to static-filled and scrambled images re-assembled from his son’s mobile. Less satisfying is the film’s incorporation of its female characters – despite fine performances by both Charlize Theron as a police inspector and Susan Sarandon as Deerfield’s traumatised wife – which undermine the film’s subtextual interest in what is called ‘the crisis of paternity’, a theme that runs through much of Haggis’s work.

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Release details

UK release:

2007

Duration:

120 mins

Cast and crew

Cast:

Tommy Lee Jones, James Franco, Susan Sarandon, Jason Patric, Josh Brolin, Charlize Theron

Music:

Mark Isham

Screenwriter:

Paul Haggis

Director:

Paul Haggis

Cinematography:

Roger Deakins

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:7
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|22
1 person listening
dave

i liked the movie because i knew the real life charater that it was made about.tommy lee did a great job of portraying my dear friend lanny davis (may he rest in piece)

dave

i liked the movie because i knew the real life charater that it was made about.tommy lee did a great job of portraying my dear friend lanny davis (may he rest in piece)

Dan

Well acted but not exciting - not really that emotional either. Certainly not a thriller. Somewhere between thrill and drama.

Dan

Well acted but not exciting - not really that emotional either. Certainly not a thriller. Somewhere between thrill and drama.

Technoguy

Haggis directorial effort has some form following 'Crash' and writing'Million Dollar Baby' and'Flags of Our Fathers'.He has come at the Iraq war obliquely and done with it what 'Redacted','Lions for Lambs' and 'Battle for Haditha' aspired to do.He has used his son's mobile phone to unlock and decode the real weight of a dehumanising war. The scrambled images are like hieroglyphs speaking a secret unmediated message of the war turning America's children into monsters.This shorthand is clever as it cuts out the need to set the whole film in Iraq.The real drama is with the craggy, stonelike features of a great screen actor's face.No need for piles of dialogue or words of explanation,just let the impassive features register emotion with a glance of anger or sadness.Also the symbolism,David versus Goliath is not too loud for the themes that are being covered.Every look and word carries meaning in this procedural thriller.Charlize Theron's acting is in the Erin Brokovitch mould of single mother trying to overcome institutional gender prejudice.She is the only actress worthy of being Tommy Lee Jones's foil. However though all the military police and police parts are full of amazing little cameos,Lee Jones carries the movie.He is at his peak what with No Country and his own 3Burials films he is the Gene Hackman of his generation for securing superb roles.The only criticism I have is for the anti-climactic ending which I think stops the film short of being great.Wish more films like this were being made.

Technoguy

Haggis directorial effort has some form following 'Crash' and writing'Million Dollar Baby' and'Flags of Our Fathers'.He has come at the Iraq war obliquely and done with it what 'Redacted','Lions for Lambs' and 'Battle for Haditha' aspired to do.He has used his son's mobile phone to unlock and decode the real weight of a dehumanising war. The scrambled images are like hieroglyphs speaking a secret unmediated message of the war turning America's children into monsters.This shorthand is clever as it cuts out the need to set the whole film in Iraq.The real drama is with the craggy, stonelike features of a great screen actor's face.No need for piles of dialogue or words of explanation,just let the impassive features register emotion with a glance of anger or sadness.Also the symbolism,David versus Goliath is not too loud for the themes that are being covered.Every look and word carries meaning in this procedural thriller.Charlize Theron's acting is in the Erin Brokovitch mould of single mother trying to overcome institutional gender prejudice.She is the only actress worthy of being Tommy Lee Jones's foil. However though all the military police and police parts are full of amazing little cameos,Lee Jones carries the movie.He is at his peak what with No Country and his own 3Burials films he is the Gene Hackman of his generation for securing superb roles.The only criticism I have is for the anti-climactic ending which I think stops the film short of being great.Wish more films like this were being made.

Henry Zakumumpa

In the Valley of Elah is a very well made but sad movie. Tommy Lee Jones has the lead role as a father whose soldier- son goes missing shortly after returning from a tour of duty in Iraq. As is often the case, our worst fears are soon confimed. What follows is a father's search for the truth and understanding of a son he thought he knew.. I watched No Country for Old Men before watching this one and again, Tommy Lee Jones delivers yet another star perfomance. He is convincing as a grieving father who shows admirable courage in confronting the hard, bitter truths about his son's fate. He communicates these emotions in a very accessible way and it is easy to emphathize with him.Charlize Theron's turn in this one, to me, was not all that too convincing, She seems to have been miscast in this role although it is clear she is wants roles against-type.Josh Brolin plays a laid-back local sherif who is reluctant to commit his team to an investigation that he knows may be complicated by the fact that the military is involved. The cast is top notch and they offer great support to the leads. Watching this film reminded me of Born on the Fourth of July. It clearly is an anti-war movie but elevates the anti-Iraqi war campaign to a new,more thoughtful level. Susan Sarandon plays the grieving mother . She, as expected, delivers in this role. I kept wondering what would have been if she had been given more to wrok with here. She has played mother several times to perfection in Step Mom and mother to Natlie Portman. In the Valley of Elah is also simply a story of life and human relationships. The disconnect between the Tommy Lee Jones character and the wife is obvious. The struggle by the Charlize cop character to prove herself before her cynical cop colleagues is a universal story. The movie works on many levels and is worthy time for viewers. Just dont forget to carry some tissue. It may come in handy!

Henry Zakumumpa

In the Valley of Elah is a very well made but sad movie. Tommy Lee Jones has the lead role as a father whose soldier- son goes missing shortly after returning from a tour of duty in Iraq. As is often the case, our worst fears are soon confimed. What follows is a father's search for the truth and understanding of a son he thought he knew.. I watched No Country for Old Men before watching this one and again, Tommy Lee Jones delivers yet another star perfomance. He is convincing as a grieving father who shows admirable courage in confronting the hard, bitter truths about his son's fate. He communicates these emotions in a very accessible way and it is easy to emphathize with him.Charlize Theron's turn in this one, to me, was not all that too convincing, She seems to have been miscast in this role although it is clear she is wants roles against-type.Josh Brolin plays a laid-back local sherif who is reluctant to commit his team to an investigation that he knows may be complicated by the fact that the military is involved. The cast is top notch and they offer great support to the leads. Watching this film reminded me of Born on the Fourth of July. It clearly is an anti-war movie but elevates the anti-Iraqi war campaign to a new,more thoughtful level. Susan Sarandon plays the grieving mother . She, as expected, delivers in this role. I kept wondering what would have been if she had been given more to wrok with here. She has played mother several times to perfection in Step Mom and mother to Natlie Portman. In the Valley of Elah is also simply a story of life and human relationships. The disconnect between the Tommy Lee Jones character and the wife is obvious. The struggle by the Charlize cop character to prove herself before her cynical cop colleagues is a universal story. The movie works on many levels and is worthy time for viewers. Just dont forget to carry some tissue. It may come in handy!

paul w.yorks

i watched this on my way back from florida on the plane.it kept my mind awake while all me around slept. tommy lee jones was brilliant, i went through a lot of emotions while watching the film.i was hooked all the way through.great film,great acting by all.

paul w.yorks

i watched this on my way back from florida on the plane.it kept my mind awake while all me around slept. tommy lee jones was brilliant, i went through a lot of emotions while watching the film.i was hooked all the way through.great film,great acting by all.

critique

Worthy, unremittingly bleak think-piece. Does what it intends to do well enough but did not entertain me at all.

critique

Worthy, unremittingly bleak think-piece. Does what it intends to do well enough but did not entertain me at all.

Pete J

The father of a missing marine - recently returned from Iraq - discovers that US officialdom cares very little about helping out until the son turns up in too many badly burnt pieces amongst depressing scrubland on the edge of town and humanity. The father, Hank Deerfield, is an ex-Army criminal investigator, but he has been so long out of the forces that none of his mates are left to pull any strings on his behalf - so he edges around the official investigation as the only way to avoid an Army cover up and an incompetent police farce. The awful truth is that when young men are trained to kill there are no geographical or social boundaries to how that ability is delivered. A must see movie.

Pete J

The father of a missing marine - recently returned from Iraq - discovers that US officialdom cares very little about helping out until the son turns up in too many badly burnt pieces amongst depressing scrubland on the edge of town and humanity. The father, Hank Deerfield, is an ex-Army criminal investigator, but he has been so long out of the forces that none of his mates are left to pull any strings on his behalf - so he edges around the official investigation as the only way to avoid an Army cover up and an incompetent police farce. The awful truth is that when young men are trained to kill there are no geographical or social boundaries to how that ability is delivered. A must see movie.

Jemma

it was shit and depressing wouldnt reccomend it if u wanted a goodtime

Jemma

it was shit and depressing wouldnt reccomend it if u wanted a goodtime

Maria Bosporos

The film is amazing; the actors are great, the plot interesting and there is widespread the message that war influences everybody and make people behave like animals. I believe America and other countries can have serious violence problems because of people who took part in war and invasion missions.

Maria Bosporos

The film is amazing; the actors are great, the plot interesting and there is widespread the message that war influences everybody and make people behave like animals. I believe America and other countries can have serious violence problems because of people who took part in war and invasion missions.