Tommy Lee Jones as Sgt. Hank Deerfield; Charlize Theron as Emily Sanders; Susan Sarandon as Joan Deerfield; Jonathan Tucker as Spc. Mike Deerfield; Jason Patric as Lt. Kirklander; Wes Chatham together Cpl. Steve Penning; Jake McLaughlin as Spc. Gordon Bonner; Mehcad Brooks together Spc. Ennis Long

Movie Review

When military Specialist Mike Deerfield return from his tourism of duty in Iraq, his family doesn’t acquire a phone contact from him. However four days later, they gain a speak to from his unit v the announcement the he’s unable to do AWOL. His father, Hank, knows appropriate away the that kind of habits is out of character for Mike, for this reason he renders the two-day drive to a fictional military base in brand-new Mexico come track under his son.

Too soon, the retired armed forces policeman discovers the his kid is not just missing, yet dead. And that he’s been brutally murdered to boot. He groups up v a reluctant neighborhood police detective, Emily Sanders, to probe the fact surrounding Mike’s death. And they start to realize that the Stateside killing is inextricably tied up in occasions that took place fifty percent a civilization away in Iraq—things the army doesn’t desire anyone to understand about.

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Positive Elements

As a dad, Hank’s devotion to his son and also to finding the truth—even if it’s painful—is admirable. Not that he’s a real heat guy. In fact, he’s a stereotypical career military male who has a tough time mirroring affection. The can’t even apologize properly. However he is utterly devoted as a father. As soon as he begins working through Sanders, that is a single mom, he i do not care something that a father figure to she young kid David as well. Through a bedtime story that Hank tells David, In the valley of Elah provides some wise words around courage and standing one’s ground. That advice is reiterated later on in a soft conversation in between Emily and David.


Spiritual Elements

The title of the film comes from the story that David and also Goliath. (It’s whereby that historical face-off occurred.) Hank speak the tale to David, top top account that the boy’s share a name through the biblical king. But both the the movie’s referrals to the bible story leaving God out completely, focusing instead top top courage and standing as much as one’s enemies. When Emily protests that the story isn’t true, Hank defends it, saying, “Of course it’s true. It’s even in the Quran.” The David and also Goliath reference is meant to parallel Hank’s fight to uncover out the truth around his child and the battle between U.S. Troops and also Iraqi insurgents, though the metaphor is proper explored.

Hank prays silently before a meal and also David imitates him. Hank also asks the officer who shows him Mike’s soldier if he have the right to take his son’s scriptures with him. (He lies about his motivations because that doing so.)


Sexual Content

The devices of Elah perform their best to realistically portray the “entertainment” tastes of unmarried men living in military barracks. Nude and mostly-nude pinups adorn the walls. Soldiers visit topless bars and strip clubs. As Hank tries to track under his son, he also visits few of these establishments. (But expresses nonverbal distaste for having actually to execute so.) Thus, audiences room exposed come pole-dancers wearing only g-string panties. Soldiers are presented waving dollar bills at the girl to attract them to run closer. And also one dancer presses she bare breasts against a man’s face, enabling him come nuzzle her briefly. Hank asks a topless waitress if she deserve to identify Mike native a photo.

When Mike an initial goes missing, other guys in his unit joke that he have to have uncovered a really amazing woman come hook increase with. Later a soldier says that Mike remained in a group of guys who rental a hooker come “blow” each of them. Showering soldiers are shown from behind. Sanders’ co-workers accuse she of sleeping her method into her detective job. The f-word is provided to indicate sex numerous times.


Violent Content

Little violence is actually shown, however much is implied. We watch the mangled stays of Mike’s body in three or four different scenes. And we clock his parents together they check out his dismembered corpse. A detective explains the approaches used to death him: He was stabbed more than 40 times, climate dismembered with a dull knife, doused in flammable liquid and also burned.

In the police department office, a woman describes how her soldier husband has killed your dog. Later, it’s determined that he has actually killed her in the very same way—and her dead body is presented in a bathtub. Garbled video clip extracted from Mike’s cell phone mirrors the torture the Iraqi prisoners, some shooting and also bodies melted by bombing. A soldier is said to have hanged himself in his quarters, and the camera examines the deep indentations from the rope as it focuses on his neck and also head.

Thinking he’s discovered the male who killed his son, Hank knocks that down v the door that his moving pickup and also proceeds come beat him v a huge wrench. Sanders tries to protect against him and gets her nose damaged by his backswing. (Both the suspect and Hank room arrested.)

<Spoiler Warning> The men who eliminated Mike to be his friends native his infantry squad—all the them so messed increase in the head the they didn’t recognize what they to be doing. The is additionally revealed the a certain incident throughout their an initial week in Iraq contributed to your emotional and also psychological disarray: A standing stimulate was provided for convoys no to prevent for any type of object or human being in the street. This order resulted in Mike running over and also killing one Iraqi child.


Crude or Profane Language

Again, the effort to realistically communicate the type of vulgar language offered in the movie’s setups creates fairly an assault on viewers. Almost 3 dozen f-words former the attack, and about a dozen s-words loss in line, follow me with more than 20 milder profanities and crude exclamations. There are a pair of venomous gestures. Hank unleashes a few hateful ethnic putdowns. And also Jesus’ surname is abused a grasp of times.


Drug and Alcohol Content

Circumstantial evidence in the killing investigation indicates that Mike was involved in drugs and drug smuggling, and also that the may have been eliminated by members the a mexican drug-running gang. A military detective says that he uncovered drug paraphernalia under Mike’s mattress, and also a friend claims that on the night he to be killed, Mike want to go discover some methamphetamine. Another solider in Mike’s unit supposedly enlisted in the army so the he could get a break on a drug-pushing sentence.

Soldiers drink in bars and also strip clubs. Understanding that drinking and also smoking are quick ways to affix with the soldiers he’s trying to question, Hank regularly shares a smoke through or buys a drink because that a GI. He additionally orders beer in numerous restaurants and bars.


Other negative Elements

To further his unofficialize investigation, Hank bring away Mike’s cabinet phone the end of his drawer in his barracks room, also though he’s been told not to take anything. Men in Mike’s unit lie in sworn statements around when castle last saw him. Sanders threatens and blackmails the armed forces detective.

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Conclusion

There space some who have actually opposed the battle in Iraq native its beginning since of thoughtful pacifism, disdain because that the present U.S. President or flat-out denial that the “war ~ above terror” needs to be waged in the middle East. Others, meanwhile, keep being optimistic around the current military campaign, sustaining the President and also refusing to think that the case is together dismal as the news media would have actually us believe. That latter team sits in Elah‘s total sights, if the former serves together its appreciative target audience.

When all is said and done, the murder secret that consumes most of the movie’s display time is around as facility as the of one hour-long TV drama. It’s exciting enough, but relatively routine. So somebody had actually to add something to rotate this story right into a function film. The something is the systematic portrayal—via Tommy Lee Jones’ character, Hank Deerfield—of every the standing standard wisdom around soldiers and their mental, moral and also emotional makeup. Then, simply as methodically, the movie tears under those traditional ideas with the dispute that Iraq is different from any kind of war ever fought.

If you believe director Paul Haggis’ artistic vision—a veritable diatribe against the Iraq battle that starts out depressing and also ends up preachy—a soldier setting foot in Iraq will begin going crazy and do immoral points he never would have done before. Further, it would certainly seem the U.S. Soldiers in Iraq have actually standing order that force them to death innocent children. And finally, taking In the valley of Elah at challenge value leaves audiences through the impression the soldiers experiencing from post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorder space unable to take obligation for their actions.

<Spoiler Warning> inspired by the murder of Richard cutting board Davis in July 2003, In the valley of Elah simplifies the story and links the killing an ext concretely to occasions in Iraq than the real-life examination has ever done. Moreover, it hangs the soldiers’ mental and also emotional trauma on orders that seem to it is in unethical. In reality, orders because that convoys to keep moving likely were given as a response to recurring Iraqi attacks. Here, in one unfair indictment of armed forces commanders, we view those orders being complied with in a method that is neither essential nor realistic.

To provide credit whereby it’s due, both Richard Davis’ story and In the sink of Elah raise vital questions about recruiting standards, the therapy of PTSD, and also other post-combat mental and also emotional issues. Yet Haggis’ propose solution—run increase a distress signal and get out of Iraq at every costs—comes nowhere near answering those questions also as the tries come emotionally strong-arm us right into believing that a solution has actually been offered. And that’s after assaulting us through the most unsavory behavior of some American soldiers.


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