It's a testament to "Elah's" stoicism that the heartbreak at how dishonesty undoes decades of dignity pierces without ever patronizing. It's an unforgettable, angry film that understands several simple thank-yous can trump eruptive, emotive speeches.
Where Lions For Lambs stumbled, Haggis' latest succeeds in putting dramatic form to the disquiet over US policy. Tommy Lee Jones' performance, meanwhile, is impressive enough to make him a decent bet in this year's Oscar race.
Jones' Oscar-nominated performance is impeccably judged. His low-key turn as a man forced to question everything from the kind of father he was to the nature of the country he fought for could be the contender to give Daniel Day-Lewis a run for his money.
Tense, powerful and considerably less crass than Crash, Elah may be jammed with ideas that don't all connect, but Jones' devastating performance makes this a compassionate and very human look at the Iraq conflict.