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In the Valley of Elah (2007)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery  |  28 September 2007 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 58,176 users   Metascore: 65/100
Reviews: 219 user | 230 critic | 37 from Metacritic.com

A retired military investigator works with a police detective to uncover the truth behind his son's disappearance following his return from a tour of duty in Iraq.



(screenplay), (story), 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sgt. Dan Carnelli
Arnold Bickman
Corporal Steve Penning
Spc. Gordon Bonner
Spc. Ennis Long
Mike Deerfield
Detective Nugent
Private Robert Ortiez (as Victor Wolf)
Detective Hodge


In Monroe, Tennessee, Hank Deerfield, an aging warrior, gets a call that his son, just back from 18 months' fighting in Iraq, is missing from his base. Hank drives to Fort Rudd, New Mexico, to search. Within a day, the charred and dismembered body of his son is found on the outskirts of town. Deerfield pushes himself into the investigation, marked by jurisdictional antagonism between the Army and local police. Working mostly with a new detective, Emily Sanders, Hank seems to close in on what happened. Major smuggling? A drug deal gone awry? Credit card slips, some photographs, and video clips from Iraq may hold the key. If Hank gets to the truth, what will it tell him? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


One Father's Fight To Find The Truth. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violent and disturbing content, language and some sexuality/nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

28 September 2007 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Death and Dishonor  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$133,557 (USA) (14 September 2007)


$6,777,589 (USA) (15 February 2008)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Barry Corbin and Kathy Lamkin also starred in No Country for Old Men (2007) the same year. The two movies both have Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA as shooting location and Roger Deakins as director of photography. See more »


The photo of the boy lying in the street is in landscape/horizontal format. When Mike takes the photo with his phone he takes in portrait/vertical format. See more »


[first lines]
Spc. Gordon Bonner: What are you doing? Get back in the fucking vehicle man! Mike, get back in the fucking vehicle. Let's go, Mike, now!
See more »


Featured in The 80th Annual Academy Awards (2008) See more »


Written by Annie Lennox
Performed by Annie Lennox
Courtesy of Arista Records, LLC
By Arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A compelling and moving film
10 March 2008 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

Loosely based on the story of Richard Davis who was killed by fellow soldiers in Columbus, Georgia after returning from Iraq in 2003, In the Valley of Elah, Paul Haggis' first feature since his Oscar winner Crash is a poignant reminder of how war robs people of their humanity. In one of the best performances of his career, Tommy Lee Jones is Hank Deerfield, a career military man whose son Mike (Jonathan Tucker) is reported as AWOL from his New Mexico base after returning from eighteen months in Iraq. What Hank discovers in searching for Mike is enough to shake his faith in an institution that had nurtured him and threaten his entire world view.

Though Deerfield is an ex-military man who knows the value of discipline and hyper-efficiency, he is a man who carries the scars of the death of his other son, killed in a military training accident. When he learns about Mike's disappearance, he tries to calm the fears of his wife Joan (Susan Sarandon), but one can sense in the lines of sadness etched in his worn face that he is very worried. In a very prophetic scene, as he sets out for the Army base to conduct his own investigation, he notices that an American flag is flying upside down, a symbol of international distress, and stops to teach the groundskeeper the difference.

At the base, Deerfield is thwarted by the stonewalling of the military and the inept local police force and cannot get anywhere with Lt. Kirklander (Jason Patric) who is in charge of the missing person operation. Fortunately, he finds a detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron) who is assigned to the case. Taunted by chauvinist fellow detectives who think she slept her way onto the squad, she is eager to prove herself as capable as her detractors. When Deerfield's body is discovered, gruesomely cut up in an open field, Deerfield and Sanders work together to piece together the puzzle, suspecting the involvement of drugs and drug dealers. With the help of video left on Mike's cell phone, however, he discovers secrets that begin to shake his faith in American institutions though he never questions his son's actions.

In one of the most moving sequences in the film, Hank tells Sanders little boy the biblical story of David who killed the giant Goliath with a slingshot in the valley of Elah. Deerfield soon understands, however, that it is not enough to fight your own fears in standing up to an adversary but it is necessary to treat the enemy as a human being while still doing your job. Mike and his fellow soldiers have been unable to erase the ugly violence they perpetrated on civilians in Iraq and have brought this self hatred home. In spite of a too literal ending that robs us of the power of our imagination and borders on the polemic, In the Valley of Elah is a compelling and moving film that makes certain we do not forget what the war in Iraq has done not only to our soldier's bodies but to their minds and souls as well.

39 of 48 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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More tripe from Paul Haggis (please stop making movies)... sfostrom
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