In The Valley Of Elah (2007)

(In theaters, September 2007) After the collective war-lust that led the United States to invade and pillage Iraq in 2003, the uncomfortable reality of a prolonged quagmire has led a number of Americans to confront Yet Another Generational Sacrifice. It’s no accident if In The Valley Of Elah is written and directed by Canadian-born Paul Haggis, seeing how it tries really hard to be both non-partisan and blatantly political. At first glance, this is a soft-edged procedural thriller about a father’s investigation in the death of his son, recently returned from Iraq. At second glance, it’s a slow-paced character portrait of grieving father and a community in shock. At third glance, it’s a meditation about the price to pay for war. But little of that will be obvious if you allow yourself to be swept into the low-key investigation that forms the film’s backbone. Tommy Lee Jones is at his laconic best as an ex-Military Policeman using his experience to put together his son’s last few moments, with the help of a embittered Charlize Theron as a policewoman in a male-dominated environment. It’s smooth, but ultimately a bit dull: One jolt of action can’t mask the flat cinematography and the lengthy pacing. The end also gets a bit too obvious, though nowhere near as annoyingly so as in Haggis’ previous Crash. It’s a long sit (and as such, won’t please everyone all the time), but it’s got a certain dramatic heft and finds a place in the pack of meditative thrillers to emerge from contemporary Hollywood cinema. It could have been tighter, leaner, better, but it’s already halfway there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *