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In the Valley of Elah

2007-12-21 13:25

What it's about

On his first weekend back after serving in Iraq, Mike Deerfield (Jonathan Tucker) goes missing and is reported AWOL. When his father Hank Deerfield (Jones), a war veteran, and mother Joan (Sarandon) are told the disturbing news, Hank sets out to search for their son. Emily Sanders (Theron), a police detective in the jurisdiction where Mike was last seen, reluctantly helps him in his search.

What we though of it

Don't let the title mislead you. Even though it's taken from a biblical battleground where David met Goliath, In The valley of Elah transcends into a deep, compassionate and soul searching film. Writer and director Paul Haggis seems to have a thing for the dark, intense and thought provoking, following his 2005 Best Picture Oscar winner Crash with yet another disturbing but honest film.

Jones is remarkably convincing as a former military man. He's quite anal with being orderly, sharp and to the point, which is highlighted even more in his interaction with Detective Emily Sanders. Hank is composed and quite ingenious as he points out clues that were overlooked during the investigation.

Theron seems to enjoy playing the single mom with no make-up in dull bulky clothes. But you can't deny her stellar performance as the committed detective, right to the end. It's a pity Sarandon's role is almost a cameo. She delivers a powerful performance questioning Hank's motives while probing paternal pressure on sons to do the "honourable" thing and join the army for their country, as well as the moral consequences of joining the army.

A cross between suspense and a detective thriller touching on social responsibility, there's hardly any violent scenes in the movie. But there are moments where it feels like a horror movie as the evidence accumulates and the shocking truth about Mike's disappearance is finally revealed.

There's plenty of dialogue and images of Iraq, but In the Valley of Elah isn't a political film. We're shown how war changes people into unfeeling monsters and how it affects soldiers psychologically. And even though moments are gruesome, you somehow understand how and why, and can't really blame anyone as you empathise with the soldiers.

In the Valley of Elah has no happy ending. It's intense, disturbing and haunting, but worth watching.

-Gugu Mkhabela
After a soldier returning from Iraq goes missing, a dark and disturbing war drama unfolds when a father uncovers clues to his son's disappearance.

Mindlo 2008/09/18 6:07 PM
Super review for a super flick... Nice review, great acting, sad story, and brilliant directing ( shot when they enter the Murdered woman's home and it shows the husband's army photo), i sure classic in its own right
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