Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):
1. War is hell
2. Coming back home can be worse
Tommy Lee Jones is perfectly cast as Hank Deerfield, a retired sergeant in the Military Police whose son Mike has gone missing shortly after returning home from active duty in Iraq.
Refusing to believe that Mike would go AWOL, Hank gets into his truck and heads off for the Army base to find out what really happened. He runs into the brick wall of Army protocol and the stone wall of the Police when it comes to military matters, and stubbornly sticks his own craggy mug into the investigation.
His tenaciousness and crime scene experience eventually help him to win the respect of Police Detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron) who begins assisting him, and together they put together the pieces after some gruesome remains are discovered on Army property. Small but significant roles are played by Susan Sarandon, Jason Patric, James Franco and Josh Brolin, and Frances Fisher is at her most revealing.
Much more than the story of a man searching for his son, this movie is based on actual events, and illustrates the mental trauma that affects some military personnel after their experiences in combat and conflict situations. The Valley of Elah, by the way, is the site of the biblical mismatch between David and Goliath.
A powerful movie that's well worth watching, with stellar performances from Jones and Theron.