The wounds are still open. Our nerve-ends are still bleeding.
Watching In The Valley of Elah within such a historic context is not possible without going through a range of burning emotions.
This Paul Haggis (of Crash) written and directed work is a downer for sure. I can't see how one can watch this movie and feel good about ANYTHING. Period. It should've been rated triple-X if the idea is to save our kids from a mental breakdown.
(Warning: plot points revealed.)
Let me start off by commenting on Tommy Lee Jones who plays the lead character Hank Deerfield, a retired military police and a father who loses his son not on the battlefield in Iraq but to a senseless murder committed by his very own army buddies back at home base.
Ladies and gentlemen — TLJ is an American institution. His craggy tired face, like perhaps that of Clint Eastwood, has turned into an American Monument and a cultural icon.
In a lot of scenes he does not even need to say anything. He just needs to present his face to the camera at a certain angle and look in a certain way, and wham! It's all there.
Susan Sarandon as his wife and Charlize Theron as Det. Emily Sanders also shine bright. We are in the presence of some world-class talent here.
Yet it's hard to find a single character in this whole production, with the exception of Det. Sanders, whom we can root for.
The plot points themselves pile up on us like hot heavy granite blocks. You get crushed with the unrelenting weight of one hopeless development after another.
Misogynist male cops making ruthless fun of a young female detective…
Young soldiers butchering and burning their buddy for no apparent reason at all (chalked up to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PSTD)…
Civilian and military investigators botching up the investigation every step of the way…
Sadistic US infantrymen torturing wounded "hadjis" in Iraq…
An immigrant custodian at a local high school who does not know which end of the American flag should be up on a flag pole…
Take your pick.
I have to admit I could not hold back my tears at the end of the movie not only because of the Deerfield couple's pain but also due to the way Hank Deerfield gives up on America and hoists the Old Glory upside down on the same high school flag pole, with his own hands.
That was a devastating scene. Hard to swallow.
I'm aware that the script is based on a true story (of late Specialist Richard R. Davis) but still you end up wondering: what have we got left if we "give up on America"?
Who can afford to do that? Is artistic license good enough an excuse or incentive to conclude a film on such a note?
Which brings me to a closely related issue – the way most Iraq War related films are bombing at the box office.
I think the American public are sick and tired of seeing one Iraq movie after another in which the servicemen and women are nothing more than sadistic losers who come back home as psychotic killers.
The American movie fans cannot believe that the glass is empty all the way down to the bottom, as frequently depicted in these movies.
We are still yet to see a more balanced crop of war movies in which the glass is half full.
But then perhaps that's a long order with a war like this which was launched on wrong intelligence and false premises.
- Movie Review – This Man Must Die (1969)
- Brando, Bunuel, and the Meaning of a “Character”
- The American (2010) – A Cold Story Served Well Like Chilled Caviar
- Just Call Me John Hughes
- Movie Review: 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
© 2008 – 2010, Daniel Dessinger. All rights reserved.