Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Tommy Lee Jones's enigmatic craggy-faced character of Hank Deerfield guides us through this murder mystery/thriller set at an Army base in New Mexico. When his son, Mike, currently serving in Iraq, returns for leave, he absconds and no one has any answers. Hank drives from Tennessee to the base to investigate but instead runs into bureaucracy. Due to laziness and sloppy work, the local police have turned over the case to the military cops who aren't as concerned with solving the crime. Charlize Theron is the detective who decides to help Hank find out what happened to his son.

The director, Paul Haggis, is also the man behind Crash. Most people loved Crash. I did not. It made an important point about racism but it banged your head way too often. That said, I wasn't expecting to, but I LOVED this movie. The topic is timely and the social commentary breaks down a man's long-held opinions and firm beliefs. You see it happening one scene at a time. Hank believes in the military and that it makes a person strong. But, Hank will doubt himself and face difficult realizations.

The plotting is shrewd. Clues are strategically placed. At times, you might get ahead of the investigation and yell at the TV for the characters to dig deeper, but the twists are plentiful. As Hank investigates, he views videos taken by Mike on his cell while abroad and these provide unexpected insight. Your final idea about what kind of person Mike was may surprise you but it illustrates how war can affect young people. (Not that I know this from personal experience, but rather from what I've read about or have heard in news reports about returning soldiers.)

TLJ carries this movie. The entire cast helps make ITVOE a resounding success, but you spend the most time with TLJ and he was a flawless casting choice for the character of Hank.


Themes: personal costs of war, murder, military police policies, sexism, camaraderie, military families, father-son relationships

Director: Paul Haggis

Country: US

Genre: Drama, Murder Mystery, Thriller

Minutes: 121 minutes

Scale: 6...having just recently awarded another movie a 6, I must learn to limit but this one is deserving

1 comment:

Michelle said...

watched it :-) great storyline.
we are looking at your blog for another suggestion for this afternoon.