Film Review: In the Valley of Elah

31 Jan

Plot: Written and directed by Paul Haggis – a winner for his multi-stranded 2004 drama Crash – it is a procedural thriller starring Tommy Lee Jones as Hank Deerfield, a retired military-police officer who is informed by the US army that the body of his son Mike, a serving soldier, has been recovered from scrubland around his base in Fort Rudd, New Mexico. Both Hank and civilian cop Detective Emily Sanders, played by Charlize Theron, suspect a military cover-up and determine to get at the truth, which may stem from an unspecified “incident” involving Mike’s unit during its final tour in Iraq, fragments of which appear to have been filmed on Mike’s mobile phone. 

Written and directed by Paul Haggis. I must admit that despite my respect for Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon and Charlize Theron as brilliant actors, what aroused my curiousity towards this project is due to Haggis’ involvement. Now I am not a fan of Mr. Haggis unlike my friend Richard of Filmstalker. I was actually skeptical about the success of Crash, and you bet that I also felt quite lukewarmly towards Million Dollar Baby. So what did I think of the film?

I thought it was done rather well. The pacing is slow but it picks up towards the last act. Tommy Lee Jones purposeful performance is just what you need to see and feel as a father on a mission. There was one interrogation scene close towards the end of the film where his facial expression elicits all the emotion of pain and sadness and hope, kudos by the way on his acting nomination. Susan Sarandon’s role as Jones’ wife, albeit brief was superbly acted, something you would expect of Sarandon’s calibre. Charlize Theron has proven again with her performance here that she is a real acting chameleon.

In the Valley of Elah speaks of the horrors of war, and it’s a war that doesnt have to be fought by an American or an Iraqi, for all wars haunts and ruins, it’s life altering that can change your life in ways you cannot possibly deduce or imagine.

In the Valley of Elah: 4/5 

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