In The Valley of Elah

Directed By: Paul Haggis


Another film about the current Iraq conflict, this one based on a true story of a father, ex Military MP, who sets out to investigate the circumstances surround his son’s status as AWOL. Through this crime thriller motif we are introduced to many compelling themes regarding the military code of ethics and brotherhood, the changing disciplines in this modern war, and the pressures and foibles of those fighting men of the U.S. forces.

Tommy Lee Jones once again brings his A-game to the table, with a strong, nuanced performance. The dynamic he holds with his wife, portrayed by Susan Sarandon, is achingly real. Similarly, each of the soldiers seem to bring a truthfulness to their performances lacking in other films (say, a film that I reviewed above). Thus, despite being more overtly a fiction film, there’s a greater sense of verisimilitude of this work than many of the documentary-styled Iraq flicks that have emerged of late.

The title refers to the story of David, where a righteous underdog defeats the militarily superior opponent. Hardly the most subtle of metaphors (nor the upside flag motif, signifying a county in distress), but effective. For all those that though Crash lacked subtlety will surely find the same complaints here, but I for one found it an enjoyable flick with enough politics, suspense, and fine performances to keep it interesting.

Grade: B


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