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Though some of Paul Haggis's themes are heavy-handed, In the Valley of Elah is otherwise an engrossing murder mystery and antiwar statement, featuring a mesmerizing performance from Tommy Lee Jones. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

A police detective (Charlize Theron) helps a retired Army sergeant (Tommy Lee Jones) search for his son, a soldier who went missing soon after returning from Iraq. Hank Deerfield, a Vietnam War veteran, learns that his son may have met with foul play after a night on the town with members of his platoon.

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Critic Reviews for In the Valley of Elah

All Critics (164) | Top Critics (50) | Fresh (121) | Rotten (43)

Audience Reviews for In the Valley of Elah

  • Sep 03, 2015
    An excellent film. The acting that Tommy Lee Jones, and particularly Charlize Theron, do in this film is nothing short of phenomenal. I'm so glad that I watched this...it was a real gem.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer
  • Dec 21, 2013
    Heartbreakingly real, "In The Valley Of Elah" tells the story of a veteran father looking for his AWOL son after his return from Iraq. Paul Haggis, best known for his directing in "Crash" delivers yet another emotionally charged drama, where every clue and every interview with a suspect leads the characters further and further down a rabbit hole, no closer to finding out what actually happened. Tommy Lee Jones plays the veteran father, with his cold, stern glare, following in the footsteps of other greats who played parts like this, most notably Jack Nicholson in "The Pledge". Both bring about very stoic performances, but both command their roles and both authentically come across like the men that they play, deliberate and focused, with emotions running deep. Charlize Theron plays the local police detective, but gets pigeonholed into the lowly female position in a department full of men who have zero respect for her, a role she often finds herself in. Despite this, she plays off Jones exceptionally and gives the film enough star power to keep it feeling fresh, instead of dated. The conclusion of "In The Valley Of Elah" is a slow burn, nothing heightened, but wholly chilling and a true testament to the position this film takes on the war in Iraq and war in general. The result is a film that sits with you long after the credits and the imagery have faded.
    Christopher H Super Reviewer
  • May 23, 2012
    A fairly decent film with a great performance from Theron, however I just wasn't too bothered about what happened. I couldn't really empathise with Hank as much as I would have liked and was just waiting for it to be over really. I didn't feel there was much mystery and it just didn't affect me.
    Sophie B Super Reviewer
  • May 22, 2012
    Oh my God. What a great film from Paul Haggis. This man has written let's see..."Million Dollar Baby", "Casino Royale", "Flags Of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima" and directed "Crash". In this film Haggis excells high as a filmmaker "In The Valley Of Elah" a film that moved me and drained me throughout. In one of his best performances Tommy Lee Jones plays a Vietnam veteran named Hank Deerfield, now hauling gravel in Tennessee. He gets a call from the Army that his son Mike, just returned from a tour in Iraq, is AWOL from his squad at Fort Rudd. That sounds wrong. He tells his wife, Joan (Susan Sarandon), that he's going to drive down there and take a look into things. He checks into a shabby motel. His journey in the area takes him into topless bars, restaurants, the local police station, the base military police operation and a morgue where he's shown something cut into pieces and burned, and he IDs the remains as his son. Looking through his son's effects, he asks as a distraction if can have his Bible, while he's pocketing his son's cell phone. It's been nearly destroyed by heat, but a friendly technician salvages some video from it, filled with junk artifacts but still retaining glimpses of what it recorded on video: glimpses of hell. The cast is top notch and believable 100 percent. Tommy Lee Jones shines as Hank but I was particularly impressed with Charlize Theron (I don't like her to be honest) as police detective Emily Sanders who is never seen as a sex symbol or a romance object, she is a real woman just trying to do her job and raise her child. Susan Suranadon is heartbreaking as Deerfield's wife and Jason Patric as a sly homicide detective. This movie reminds me of the 1956 film "The Searchers" with John Wayne on his search for his neice Debbie but Haggis hasn't ripped off that film. Oh no. Haggis brings so much emotional depth and confidence to his drama pic one can't help but notice and just again be mesmerized by the film's tone. This is a great film, a true film and a treasure.
    Brian R Super Reviewer

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