In the Valley of Elah
In the finely written, sensitively constructed, well directed and wonderfully acted film, In the Valley of Elah, we are taken on a painful search for a lost son. From its opening scene where we meet Hank Deerfield, a former MP
Sergeant, who is receiving the news that his son, Mike is missing from his base after serving a long stint overseas, to the very last scene which helps explain all that came before, we are led on a chase which captures our full attention during the film's speedy two hour run.
Tommy Lee Jones, looking about as weather-worn as any actor could, plays the father. Susan Sarandon appears, in an all too brief role, as the mother. They have a scene together, walking down a hall, that will linger in your memory for a long time. Charlize Theron, of North Country and Monster fame, plays the relentless detective who, despite every adversity thrown her way, pursues justice until she gets it. It is my prediction that each of the three may, once again, get the nod for Academy-award nominations.
But this is Paul Haggis' movie. As Producer, Director and Screenplay writer, Mr.. Haggis has created a film in which every frame moves the story forward. Moreover, he fills each frame with explanation, excitement and energy as he unfolds his remarkable story. Credit goes to Jo Francis for a most intelligent, difficult and superior editing job considering the many clips she dealt with.
The title, "In the Valley of Elah" alludes to a poignant scene when Hank is reading a bedtime story to David, the son of Detective Emily Sanders, describing the conflict between David and Goliath. There, of course, the "little man" defeats the giant. Tying up that "Valley" with this "Valley" is the essence of what the film is attempting to say. Your undivided attention with each scene of this film – which should not be difficult – will help explain the title beautifully. This is a movie with "layers" and each layer unfolds under Haggis" magnificent direction.
The army, attempting to emulate the Vegas ad of "What happens here, stays here", comes under scrutiny by both a former member of the Corps and a no-nonsense detective hell-bent on getting answers. Their intelligent, relentless probing creates all the ingredients that make In the Valley of Elah an absorbing film.
The many varied scenes of war help motivate us to a realization that war, any war, has got to be an act of futility in which no one ever wins and thereby adds In the Valley of Elah to the ranks of important anti-war films. The search, the action, the acting and the denouement all make this a film you really must see!
In the Valley of Elah opens everywhere on Friday, September 14.