In the Valley of Elah (2007) Review


Hank Deerfield is a retired military investigator and when his son disappears following returning from Iraq he must work with Detective Emily Sanders to uncover the truth in what actually happened to him.


Hank and Joan Deerfield have had it pretty tough in recent times their eldest son dying in combat and now their youngest son has gone AWOL. He had no idea that he was even back in the US after being in Iraq for 18 months, something that was immediately strange that he had not called them. He must travel from Tennessee to the base in New Mexico in order to find out more information. It doesn’t take long before remains of a body are found and it is confirmed to be Mike.

Emily Sanders is not having the best of times in her role as detective having to constantly put up with sexism from her male colleagues and them giving her the nothing cases. But when she is in charge of the case with Mike she must battle against the army who try to keep everything in house. Hank is not going to sit quietly and wait, he gets involved and talks to the witnesses which is obviously not what Sanders wants to happen but in the end he really does help with the investigation.

The outcome is not something I am going to spoil but it does make for some rather upsetting viewing. Thinking about how easy it was for the army to attempt to cover things up and have sudden confessions and changes of story as they protect themselves. The impact of the war certainly playing a big part in the changes in these young men, Mike included in that his actions did not sound like those of the son Hank remembered.

Tommy Lee Jones is brilliant as Hank and he fully deserved his Oscar nomination that is for sure, he is powerful and engaging throughout. Managing to capture the emotions of the father just wanting to find out where his son was and then what actually happened to him. Charlize Theron is equally impressive as the detective who must put up with the sexism from her colleagues, a single mother battling to be better than her reality. It was a shame that Susan Sarandon’s role ended in more with a couple of cameos rather than anything even supporting.

I always remember seeing this film at the cinema and the thought provoking nature of the the Iraq war and how the soldiers must attempt to deal with what they had to do. I have since watched the film a few more times and I really think it is still as powerful as ever and I often regard it as an under seen film.

The story within the film is fictional but it is based on facts of an actual case. This resulted in name changes and location changes for the film. But this event did really happen and the father of Richard T. Davis was a former military police officer, the same as Hank within the film.

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