In the Valley of Elah


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Rating: R

Tommy Lee Jones as Hank Deerfield
Charlize Theron as Det. Emily Sanders
Jason Patric as Lt. Kirklander
Susan Sarandon as Joan Deerfield
James Franco as Sgt. Dan Carnelli
J Barry Corbin as Arnold Bickman
Josh Brolin as Chief Buchwald
Frances Fisher as Evie
Wes Chatham as Corporal Steve Penning
Jake McLaughlin as Spc. Gordon Bonner
Mehcad Brooks as Spc. Ennis Long
Jonathan Tucker as Mike Deerfield
Wayne Duvall as Detective Nugent
Victor Wolf as Private Robert Ortiez
Brent Briscoe as Detective Hodge

Special Features:
In the Valley of Elah: After Iraq
In the Valley of Elah: Coming Home
Additional Scene

Other Info:
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Languages
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 121 Minutes

The following is from the DVD cover:

“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.”

“In the Valley of Elah” is rated R for violent and disturbing content, language and some sexuality/nudity.

“In the Valley of Elah” is kind of a mix between your typical murder mystery and a military drama. The film follows Hank Deerfield as he chases down clues as to what really happened to his son who was brutally murdered. The twist is that he must face military stonewalling in order to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Tommy Lee Jones is excellent as Deerfield. He mixes somber mourning for his son with detached analysis of the facts. Along the way he dances the fine line of letting his emotions cloud the truth. His long history with the military also comes into play as he finds the institution he devoted his life to covering up the murder of his boy.

Charlize Theron is also great as Det. Emily Sanders. She aids Deerfield in the investigation and learns a lot from him along the way. Sanders must not only face the military cover-up but prejudice within her police department at the same time. Jones and Theron are supported by an excellent cast that includes strong performances by Jason Patric, Susan Sarandon, James Franco, and Josh Brolin.

At the end of the day, the film is really about war veterans with untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They are certainly casualties of war and they are not being appropriately cared for. Ultimately, they can be threats to themselves and others. It’s a good message for the film to get out there and it raises the story from a mere murder mystery to something more important.

If you’re fans of any of the leading actors, especially Tommy Lee Jones, then this is a film you’re going to want to check out. The running time is a bit long and it is depressing, but the quality of the picture makes up for that.

For the bonus features, they did something interesting. They mixed your typical ‘making of’ featurette with a non-fiction look at the soldiers returning from war. You’ll see them filming scenes and then chatting with extras (yes, even the strippers) about soldiers they’ve known that have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Also mixed in are interviews with the real people that the movie was based on. It ends up being a great extra. You’ll also find an additional scene showing Deerfield tracking down an old girlfriend of his son. It turns out she’s a fellow soldier (named Jennifer Lopez) who had limbs blown off by an IED. The effects showing her amputated limbs weren’t complete, so in some scenes you just see her wearing green coverings on her arm and leg. It’s interesting to see that while the deleted sequence paints more of the picture story-wise.