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In the Valley of Elah

Published September 13, 2007 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Warner Independent Pictures.
In the Valley of Elah Poster In the Valley of Elah
Oh, how I love movies where Tommy Lee Jones is looking for someone. I doesn't have to be a criminal, although that is preferred. There's just nobody who makes a procedural pursuit more compelling. In the Valley of Elah is, at its best, Tommy Lee Jones looking for someone.

Review: In the Valley of Elah


When Hank Deerfield (Jones) gets a call that his son has gone AWOL, he springs into action. Leaving his wife (Susan Sarandon) behind, Hank goes to the base and conducts his own investigation. His pursuit catches the eye of Detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron) who joins him to expose the coverup. See, going AWOL is a crime, so this is right up his alley.

The film is A Few Good Men meets The Fugitive. The military cover-ups are compelling as Hank follows clues and leads to tear through the façade.

Jones's dry delivery brings a lot of humor too. In the contentious stages of his relationship with the detective, his unemotional insults to her sting more than any frothy mouthed tirades. Talking straight to her kid is classic too.

The emotional and political elements of the film feel like asides. Crying arguments between the parents are just there to let the actors emote. The tragedy is irrelevant to the bare bones of the plot. Det. Sanders' love life is another aside.



Even the disturbing war stories that portray how awful things are only do so tangentially. This is about an investigation. It happens to be in the military while there is a war going on, so they have to comment. It doesn't matter. Just get through it and move onto the resolution.

You can tell because it's only the plot parts that work. There are nuances that propel the story. When they get emotional or political, it removes any subtlety. It's all fine. It's good entertainment and it tries.

By the way, how wrong is it that whenever I hear the title of this movie, I think of that Simpsons episode where Bart had everyone singing "In the Garden of Eden" by I. Ron Butterfly? "In the Valley of Elah, honey. Don't you know that I looooove youuuu? In the Valley of Elah, honey. Don't you know that I'll always be truuuueee?"

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Warner Independent Pictures.
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