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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 57,850 users   Metascore: 65/100
Reviews: 218 user | 230 critic | 37 from

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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Title: In the Valley of Elah (2007)

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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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Sometimes The Truth Is Best Left Buried 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?


Several of the actors who played soldiers, including Wes Chatham (Corporal Steve Penning), Jake McLaughlin (Spc. Gordon Bonner) and Sean Huze (Captain Jim Osher) had actually served in the Iraq War themselves. 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 Siskel & Ebert: Episode dated 15 September 2007 (2007) See more »


Till I Get It Right
Written by Larry Henley and Red Lane
Performed by Tammy Wynette
Courtesy of Epic Records
By Arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Why do most critics attack this film for being heavy-handed?
29 September 2007 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Only Roger Ebert and the reviewer for Rolling Stone seem to see the truth here: this film is slow and elegiac because it deals with heavy matters, but it is never boring, not if you understand the situation and the depth of feelings being explored. It's as if reviewers don't get it because they didn't really feel what the film is saying. Saying that there have been dozens of films about how war ruins men so it's a cliché, and that this one is too dreary and slow means that a person has stopped feeling for what is really hurtful, is even in denial. And that's the theme of this film: what happens when we lose touch with what's painful and don't care any more. The film is restrained but powerful, which is why it has such a strong effect.

Jones is wonderfully grim, with a face like a road map, as he explores what happened to his son. Charlize Theron is beautiful even though she is playing a woman who is forced to act as non-sexy as possible to get on in her job in a male police force. Susan Sarandon is not, as some critic said, "underused"; she gives a performance that is all the more powerful because it is restrained. This movie should be a must see for all who believe that the Iraq war should continue until there is an honorable time for America to leave. That time is already passed.

282 of 349 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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