2 hours, 4 minutes
R Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Adult.
for violent and disturbing content, language and some sexuality/nudity.
In the Valley of Elah: After Iraq; In the Valley of Elah: Coming Home; Additional scene
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
A career officer in New Mexico, Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones "The Fugitive") learns that his son Mike (Jonathan Tucker "The Virgin Suicides"), who had been serving in Iraq, has gone AWOL from his military base after returning home from Iraq. Hank packs up his bag, says goodbye to wife Joan (Susan Sarandon "Dead Man Walking") and goes off to the military base to check things out for himself.
First Hank goes to the local police to ask them to investigate, only to get brushed-off by Detective Emily Saunders (Charlize Theron "Monster"), an overworked and underappreciated cop who seems to be too busy fending off sexist accusations of how she got her job to worry about anything more important. She seems more than happy to hand the case over to the military and the officers in charge, Sgt. Carnelli (James Franco "Spider-Man") and Lt. Kirklander (Jason Patric "Sleepers"), who are little more than bureaucrats, content to sweep the entire thing under the rug. But after they boy's mutilated body is found, Detective Saunders decides to make up for her initial aloofness by helping Hank investigate the strange circumstances surrounding his son's death.
While addressing one of the biggest moral and political predicaments of our time, the film directed by Paul Haggis ("Crash") steers clear of the messy and complex politics polarizing today's headlines. Neatly attempting to illustrate our nation's social and political problems, the same way "Crash" tried to illustrate the racial tensions of Los Angeles, Haggis presents the war in a strangely de-politicized view. He seems to be saying that without the Iraq war, the American psyche would have no other problems.
Tommy Lee Jones gives a heartbreaking, understated performance in his honest portrayal of a decent army man confronting some of the worst elements of our current crisis. Unfortunately, Susan Sarandon has the thankless role of the hand-wringing wife, while, Charlize Theron does a credible job playing a single mom up against her crude male colleagues in the police force, despite being burdened by the mechanics of the plot. Sadly the film seems to fall apart just when it should be delivering its final punch.