7.2/10
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233 user 239 critic

In the Valley of Elah (2007)

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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.

Director:

Paul Haggis

Writers:

Paul Haggis (screenplay), Mark Boal (story) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 17 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Tommy Lee Jones ... Hank Deerfield
Charlize Theron ... Det. Emily Sanders
Jason Patric ... Lt. Kirklander
Susan Sarandon ... Joan Deerfield
James Franco ... Sgt. Dan Carnelli
Barry Corbin ... Arnold Bickman
Josh Brolin ... Chief Buchwald
Frances Fisher ... Evie
Wes Chatham ... Corporal Steve Penning
Jake McLaughlin ... Spc. Gordon Bonner
Mehcad Brooks ... Spc. Ennis Long
Jonathan Tucker ... Mike Deerfield
Wayne Duvall ... Detective Nugent
Roman Arabia ... Private Robert Ortiez (as Victor Wolf)
Brent Briscoe ... Detective Hodge
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

Sometimes finding the truth is easier than facing it. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 September 2007 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Death and Dishonor See more »

Filming Locations:

USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$133,557, 16 September 2007, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$6,777,741, 21 February 2008

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$29,527,293, 29 March 2009
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film was originally a potential starring vehicle for Clint Eastwood, who directed Paul Haggis' screenplay for Million Dollar Baby (2004). Eastwood turned it down, despite liking the script very much, and recommended his friend Tommy Lee Jones for the role of Hank Deerfield. See more »

Goofs

In the scene where Hank Deerfield is trying to access his son's financial records via his laptop, he is talking to his wife on the phone. When the camera is on him, he is holding the handset to his ear but when the camera is on the laptop, the phone is visible to the right of the laptop and the handset is on-hook. The logo of a dial-up ISP is displayed on the laptop as it's downloading e-mail. If the laptop is connected to the ISP, he couldn't be using the phone line to make a voice call. See more »

Quotes

[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!
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Connections

Referenced in The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Episode #20.148 (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

Lost
Written by Annie Lennox
Performed by Annie Lennox
Courtesy of Arista Records, LLC
By Arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A less soapy, more plot-driven Haggis drama
15 September 2007 | by billybobwashereSee all my reviews

There are many people out there who hate the way Paul Haggis made his directorial debut, "Crash," an overly soapy and stupidly-tied-together drama (at least, that's what it felt like to them). Those people don't have to worry. His second major directorial outing, "In the Valley of Elah," avoids both of the "mistakes" (although I'd hardly call them that, seeing as he won Best Picture for what he did with "Crash") that he made last time around. Instead of mixing together multiple stories and having them all connect at the very end, this movie revolves around one main story, a story that seems a lot like the modern-day war version of "Chinatown." Instead of going for simple emotional tugs that he did with "Crash," this film focuses on its understated performances, namely from Tommy Lee Jones, who is superb in this film. It is truly courageous of Paul Haggis to be willing to make some serious changes to the style that won him a Best Picture Academy Award, and even more impressive that he pulls it off very well.

The story revolves around an ex-military officer, Hank Deerfield, who is told that his son, a soldier returning home from Iraq, has gone missing. Jones plays the character in such a quiet way that makes you feel like he thinks he shouldn't be showing emotion, but has a lot of it bottled up inside of him. When he arrives at the military station, people don't seem to want to tell him what happened, and say that they expect he'll come to the base anytime soon (this is portrayed especially well by James Franco, who you may know as Harry Osbourne from the "Spider-man" movies).

Refusing to believe that it's as simple as that, Deerfield is relentless in getting information out of people as to what really happened. It's the way he functioned in the army, and it benefits him greatly as he has to get any information he can out of people. Enter Detective Emily Sanders (played by a very strong Charlize Theron), who at first just wants to get through her job for the day, but soon gets wrapped up in also discovering what really happened to Deerfield's son. The two of them have great chemistry together, as their two different personalities give two different perspectives on what's happening.

The movie works because although it does have quite a few negative things to say about the current war in Iraq, the entire film isn't a two-hour tirade against it. It only makes that message part of the story, and does it in subtle ways (aka the soldiers don't just go "War...it...destroys...you..." but take a lot more time expressing their emotion). Much of the story works like a mixture between the great film "Chinatown" and a much better-acted, better-written version of a really good episode of "CSI." Although there may be a few too many twists and lies circling about, it comes to its conclusion very well in a satisfying way for the audience.

Paul Haggis has an uncanny way of bringing out great performances from all of his actors. The performance of Tommy Lee Jones could be the best of his career, he brings out a much more emotionally quiet side in Charlize Theron than we've before seen, the short performance of Susan Sarandon is particularly powerful, and all of the soldiers are played with a feeling of sincerity. The acting is probably the strongest element of the film, and if there's any "weak part," it would have to be the way Haggis forced out some of the plot twists to make the film as long as he wanted it to be.

Regardless of its few problems, "In the Valley of Elah" is both a very well-mannered look at the war in Iraq and its effects on the people involved, as well as a very interesting crime thriller. At the heart of it is Haggis's quietly powerful directing style and the cast's powerfully quiet performances. I don't see this picking up a Best Picture nomination as Haggis's past three Oscar hopeful screenplays ("Letters from Iwo Jima," "Crash," and "Million Dollar Baby"), but I would not be surprised to see it pick up a few acting nominations as well as possibly a screenplay nod. If it does...it would have definitely earned it.


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