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In the Valley of Elah

Sometimes Finding the Truth is Easier Than Facing It. 

Year: 2007 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from In the Valley of Elah

Director: Paul Haggis

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon

In the Valley of Elah tells the story of a father's quest to uncover the truth about his son's death. A routine AWOL becomes a murder investigation when a charred and dismembered body is found. Piece by piece, Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones) traces his son's footsteps and has the deleted photos recovered from his mobile phone. However, he's thwarted at every turn by a wall of silence from the army and jurisdictional tension between the army and the police. As Hank digs deeper it turns out there's more than just incompetence; a horrifying conspiracy is emerging as well as the blacker deeds of his son's time in Iraq.

Tommy Lee Jones is superb as Hank Deerfield and was rightly nominated for an Oscar for it. Although Hank outwardly remains strong in the face of this tragedy, Tommy Lee Jones' portrayal shows the underlying pain he is going through and the guilt he feels for the death of his son who had followed in his foot steps.

Charlize Theron also performs her role admirably as Detective Sanders, a police detective trying to do the right thing despite facing apathy from her colleagues and scorn from Hank.

Paul Haggis, the man responsible the Oscar winning films Crash and Million Dollar Baby, wrote and directed the film. Although In the Valley of Elah hasn't won him a third best picture Oscar, it stands up well when compared to these films.

The pace is slow, yet gripping, and at times the film is deeply moving. Rather than choosing to make the film a political lecture about Iraq, Haggis chooses instead to tell the story in such a way as to encourage you to think about it for yourself. This clever writing and directing makes this film worth watching but it is Tommy Lee Jones’ performance that makes this film great.

Natalie Tyldesley

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Screenings of this film:

2007/2008 Summer Term (35mm)