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In the Valley of Elah
DVD disk
Mar 11, 2008 By: Quigles
In the Valley of Elah order
Director:
Paul Haggis

Actors:
Tommy Lee Jones
Charlize Theron
Susan Sarandon

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A father attempts to solve the mystery behind his son's disappearance following his return from serving duty in Iraq.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Paul Haggis received a pretty big shitstorm of hate after his Oscar win for Best Picture with CRASH, due largely to the film's heavy-handedness. With the cover for IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH sporting a giant American flag waving behind its lead characters, it makes sense why people would fear similar problems. And though the film does come down a little too hard with its political intentions in a few sequences (that final scene with the upside down flag could not have been more blatant), Tommy Lee Jones' powerful, introverted performance more than makes up for the subtlety that the rest of the film lacks.

The movie falters the worst when it moves focus away from Jones' character study, opting to present the unraveling mystery through an unexciting police procedural. It falls prey to predictability far too often, especially if you've seen any number of the million cop shows on TV. Most annoying is the way Jones seems to be smarter than the entire police force working the case.

What keeps things from completely unraveling is the destruction of the film's characters, and the very compelling way Jones' son is slowly revealed to have basically been a total asshole. Most movies would've gone the other route, presenting him as an honorable, earnest soldier serving to make his country a better place, and then used his regrettable death as a catalyst for U.S.-bashing. Say what you will about Paul Haggis, but he's better than that, and it shows.
THE EXTRAS
Not much, but the two featurettes are solid.

In the Valley of Elah: After Iraq (27:35): An interesting and informative look at the making of the film.

In the Valley of Elah: Coming Home (15:20): A continuation of the first featurette, this time focusing on the cast's/crew's views on the war.

Also included is an Additional Scene (7:46).
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
As has been said many times before, the main reason to see this movie is Tommy Lee Jones' powerful performance. Other than that, it's an engaging enough experience, but nothing that will blow you away.
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