In the Valley of Elah

2007

Crime / Drama / Mystery

89
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 73%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 77%
IMDb Rating 7.1 10 68,048

Synopsis


Downloaded times
September 26, 2020

Director

Cast

Charlize Theron as Supermodel
James Franco as Sonny / son
Josh Brolin as Josh
Zoe Kazan as Angie
720p.BLU
1.09 GB
1280*720
English 2.0
R
23.976 fps
121 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Lechuguilla 8 / 10 / 10

In Search Of The Truth

A gung-ho ex military man gets word that his son, a soldier in Iraq, has gone AWOL. The film's plot follows the father, played by Tommy Lee Jones, as he sets about trying to find out what happened. Most of the characters here are either military people or local cops. The story is heavy on mystery and investigation. The father's research skills are more potent than those of some local cops. Subtle plot twists and red herrings throughout keep the story's outcome uncertain until the end. Based very loosely on a real-life event in 2003, the film's back-story pertains to the war in Iraq. Because of the controversial nature of this war, some viewers will read into the film a nefarious political agenda, dismissing it as propaganda. In point of fact, the motivation that led to the real-life event is, to this day, still shrouded in mystery. Production values are generally high. The film has terrific, detailed production design. Sound quality is near perfect, which, when combined with the absence of background music in some scenes, enhances a sense of realism. Film editing is reasonably good, though a number of scenes could have been edited out, as they are either unnecessary or a tad confusing. If one is not privy to the film's point of view, the ending is slightly ambiguous, especially with regard to motivations of certain characters. An added line or two of dialogue could have added clarification. Acting is wonderful. Tommy Lee Jones, with his weather-beaten face, is convincing as a tough, patriotic American military dad. Charlize Theron is satisfying as a frustrated local cop. Even minor roles are well cast. Kathy Lamkin, in a small role, couldn't be any more realistic as the impersonal, haggard manager of a fast-food restaurant. I found "In The Valley Of Elah" entertaining as a mystery. The terrific casting and acting, along with high production values, render a film that is both realistic and highly believable.

Reviewed by bpreston41-1 8 / 10 / 10

Why do most critics attack this film for being heavy-handed?

Only Roger Ebert and the reviewer for Rolling Stone seem to see the truth here: this film is slow and elegiac because it deals with heavy matters, but it is never boring, not if you understand the situation and the depth of feelings being explored. It's as if reviewers don't get it because they didn't really feel what the film is saying. Saying that there have been dozens of films about how war ruins men so it's a cliché, and that this one is too dreary and slow means that a person has stopped feeling for what is really hurtful, is even in denial. And that's the theme of this film: what happens when we lose touch with what's painful and don't care any more. The film is restrained but powerful, which is why it has such a strong effect. Jones is wonderfully grim, with a face like a road map, as he explores what happened to his son. Charlize Theron is beautiful even though she is playing a woman who is forced to act as non-sexy as possible to get on in her job in a male police force. Susan Sarandon is not, as some critic said, "underused"; she gives a performance that is all the more powerful because it is restrained. This movie should be a must see for all who believe that the Iraq war should continue until there is an honorable time for America to leave. That time is already passed.

Reviewed by fifty_mm 8 / 10 / 10

It's not about war, it's not about murder... it's about coping.

The movie uniquely dealt with the mechanism of coping with traumatic experiences. True, it was a war pic. Yes, it had an additional "look what we're doing to our kids" anti-war message (which was driven home in the scene where he's finally leaving his son's barracks and this young, pimply faced kid starts settling in), and yes, it was a murder mystery, but the method in which Haggis portrays the different behaviors the characters exhibit while trying to deal with extremely stressful and traumatic experiences was the main point of the movie. Haggis drove the point home with careful camera techniques and crafting true-to-life characters. I like the way he kept the camera back at the end of the hallway when Mrs. Deerfield cried into her husband's arms after viewing the mutilated body of her son. He employed a similar method when she broke down and started crying on the phone (Mr. Deerfield: "I'm not gonna sit on the phone and listen to you cry." Mrs. Deerfield: "Then don't") – Deakins has the camera up on the stairs looking directly down on her while she sits hunched over on the floor. It's not that Haggis is "hiding" these moments from the audience – I believe that it is more of a commentary on our disconnection from our own emotions during these moments. Additionally, Haggis has the actors restrain themselves during the height of when one expects them to indicate the most suffering and when the camera is close enough to expose it, i.e. Mr. Deerfield seeing his mutilated son for the first time, also towards the end when he realizes that his own rigid personality alienated his son from himself and Cpl. Penning's almost robotic, non-remorseful confession of murdering Spc. Deerfield – which was a phenomenal performance – are two good examples. You could see the mountain of emotion being suppressed behind his cold exterior. His confession was so level that it was hard for me to accept the fact that he had stabbed Pfc. Deerfield over 42 times, dismembered his body, then set fire to it. But this is exactly the point Haggis was trying to make – this disconnection from reality; death as a video game with no consequences ("React or die. React or die.") By the way, I think Tommy Lee Jones did an amazing job as well. And that's an understatement. Further exposés on the aspects of coping include the side story of the soldier who first held down his Doberman in the tub until it drowned and subsequently repeated that action with his wife instead. Spc. Bonner hanging himself for his involvement in the murder of Deerfield. Pvt. Ortiez's full denial of the fact that their squad ran over an Iraqi child ("That wasn't no kid. That was a dog. As far as I'm concerned, that was a dog. I don't know what that picture is."). More importantly, Spc. Deerfield's own methods of coping served to act as the catalyst for the plot. The one moment he had (and the only moment in the movie where tears are actually shown falling) where he tried to reach out to his father ("Dad, something happened. Can you get me out of here?"), he got snubbed. So his ability to cope manifested itself into destructive behavior: doing drugs, bad-mouthing the stripper, torturing the "Haji" militant, picking fights with his comrades – ultimately leading to his demise. All of these characters had their demons to deal with. The point of the movie was how to deal with those monsters. The title, itself, acting as a metaphor to that exact question. The Valley of Elah – where David took his stand against Goliath – was where all the characters of this movie stood in the shadows of their own Goliaths. Some fought (Mrs. Deerfield, Det. Sanders), some stuck their heads in the sand (Ortiez, Mr. Deerfield), and some ran away (Penning, Bonner). Much like the tagline states: sometimes finding the truth is easier than facing it. I also thought the movie was unique in the angle it took on war: its psychological impact. Excluding such crappy movies like, "Iron Eagles" and "Flight of the Intruder", good war movies have more than an "accomplishing-an-objective" plot type in mind. "Saving Private Ryan", although based entirely around an objective, used the multitude of horrors the characters encountered to highlight their methods of dealing with it. I'd say this movie was more along the lines of "Deer Hunter" or "Jarhead" – where what you see in war plays second fiddle to how you deal with what you see in war. The only objection I had to the movie (a very moderate one) was originated by my girlfriend, who served in Iraq – I hadn't thought about it until she brought it up. True, the movie is a very small "slice of life" take on our involvement in Iraq (granted, PTSD is a MAJOR aspect of this war – but there are many other facets as well), so it's not entirely unjustified to have ALL the soldiers of this movie be so "f***ed up" from their wartime experiences. However, it would have been nice to see at least one soldier try to cope with his demons in a more constructive way – be it counseling or in some other non-destructive method. When I visited my girlfriend in Germany, during her leave, I came across pamphlets, brochures, and television commercials (on the Armed Services Network) that encouraged infantry men and women to seek counseling in helping deal with PTSD, acclimating to life in the states again, returning to their families, and so forth. Nevertheless, personally, I don't feel that this is too critical of a point to make – Haggis is trying to illustrate a specific notion of the effects of war and shouldn't have to cater to any of the "exceptions to the rule."

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