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
I just saw this film and consider it to be one of the best anti-war films I've seen in quite a long time. And that makes me wonder at what the various critics are thinking. Roger Ebert gets it right, but some film critics are far too dismissive of a very serious, important film. James Berardinelli, in particular, seems curiously _angry_ that this film depicts the moral degradation of war in a frank and honest fashion.
Berardinelli is basically wrong in every single thing he says about the film. Since this film is not a "politcal message" film, it has no requirement to "show both sides equally". It is a story about a group of soldiers basically driven beyond the area of traditionally human behavior. Berardinelli thinks that it's "obvious" that war changes the way people feel about their country.
I sense a person utterly detached from history when I read that. A recent study concluded that the English were, as a group, fairly happy during WWII, even when their nation was under attack. Why was that? Because they believed in what they were doing. The notion that war _necessarily_ results in moral breakdown is, while hardly novel, also not true. That is part of what is important about "Elah". Jones' character is a veteran of the Vietnam war, and is hardly a delicate flower when it comes to the matters of war and its effect on the psyche. And yet even he is floored at what the Iraq war has done to the soldiers.
It is easy for a film critic to simply reject what is essentially reporting on the state of the military today. That Berardinelli does so with such vitriol makes me guess that he is injecting his own bias into the review.
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