In the Valley of Elah Reviews
Though initially I found the ending anti climatic and vague, the more I thought about it and how the effects of war must warp your mind , I came to respect what they were trying to say here.
Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron are both outstanding here.
Tommy Lee Jones in another great performance. The movie is about an retired officer of the army investigating the death of his son Tucker who went AWOL after coming back from Iraq. He gets help from a female detective who is played by Charlize Theron. There is a lot of covering up, and no one wants to tell the truth. The whole movie is a build up to the ending which will leave you feeling disgusted, sympathy for the convicted, and heartbroken for the dead boys family. The movie is disturbing, and shows us what it is like for the soldiers and their families when they have come back from war. Susan Sarandon, although not having that much screen time in this movie is amazing with just the little bit of screen time she was given. You can feel her grief. Those who are for the war may be left feeling indifferent about it after watching this film. It's definitely shows the downfall of going to war, and has you sympathizing for the soldiers and their families even more so now then before. Great movie and great performances.
I thought the acting was superb - Jones was nominated for an academy award. Theron (who plays a cop) also is great as the level-headed rookie investigator.
The entire relationship between Jones, a former MP sargent looking for his awol son, and Theron's put upon female detective begs for better treatment. Sure, she sees in the injustice of this case her own battles against a male run department of good old boys who want nothing more than to collect a pay check; but inviting Jones into her homelife to such an extent seemed off, as if a writting contrivance to get Theron more into the film. Her performance makes it all the more an iffy proposition, as she comes off a bit too wrote.
Compare this to Surandon, who has a small role and totally disappears during the second half of the film, but nonetheless you never get the feeling that she was written into the film. Her part was superflous and yet the most powerful part of the film, showing a military mothers' acceptance of her role, and all the accompanying grief that follows. A great bit of filming was her looking through the open blinds at her son's remains, and then the military liason, whose mouth is blocked by a blind (subliminal imagery, yes!) denying her access to the room.
When Jones informs her of her 2nd son's demise and she begins to cry, he tells her that he can't keep listening to her sob on the phone like that; so she tells him not to listen and throws the phone across the room as she collapses into a corner. Powerful stuff, and a necessary juxtaposition to Jones' who carries his stiff upper lip to the extreme.
Jone's only reacts in true anger once, when demanding to see the body of his son, but otherwise is a study in military discipline, keeping his cool even while being screwed by the the very military that he dedicated his life to.
The film comes off as a well plotted mystery with a strong central charactor to anchor it, but the handling of Theron seemed too simple and hollywood - better writing would have not only made her charactor more real, but have raised the stakes of the film.
This is a great film, with a very good cast giving great performances especially Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron. It touches on quite a few political views about the army and war in Iraq and the effects it can have. A truly moving film based on true events.
Leave it to Hollywood to take a sad story and claim to pay "homage" to this misfortuned soldier and his family by telling the world what really happened... yet the end result is a film that chronicles nothing about the true events. Damn you Hollywood....
Had I not found out about this, I would've given this movie much higher accolades. Hell, they didn't even use the victim's real name in the movie! The way in which he was killed, and even the motives were all completely different. The only resemblance the film holds to the real event is that a soldier who returned from Iraq was killed by his fellow soldiers. I won't go into any more details because I dont' want to spoil the movie for anyone.
If you can go into this movie knowing it's not based on a true story, you might be able to enjoy it more. Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron were excellent together in this film. Susan Sarandon was amazing as well. This film is a thriller and will leave you guessing to the end... but for me at least, all the good things I liked about this movie were completely deflated when I found out the truth about the events.
Still a solid film, and worth a watch, especially if you enjoyed other war-based dramas like Stop Loss or Home of the Brave.
The movie is very slow but I never found it dull or anything. Just Jones' performance makes it worth a look. You can feel his suffering and the guilt of losing his son.
The story is based on a true story. It gets you interested from the very first minutes. It is a moving story and the political aspect (US war in Iraq, Afganistan...) is shown thru the eyes of young kids who get affected by war in harmful ways.