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3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon June 30, 2009
When young soldier Mike Deerfield returns from Iraq and immediately goes missing, his father, Hank (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to find him. Soon it appears that Mike was the victim of foul play, but Hank finds the military authorities strangely uncooperative and his only hope is a civilian police officer (Charlize Theron) who is disliked by her colleagues.

Though the film deals with war and murder, it is surprisingly unemotional and uninvolving. There is no tension or danger, there were too many minor characters to keep straight, and all the actors delivered their lines with such unrelenting poker-faces that it actually became tedious and boring. Jones always gives a sensitive performance and makes it look easy, but here he's given so little to work with that he seemed to sleepwalk through his scenes. Theron plays a superwoman cop and mother who looked way too glamorous and was too emotionally upset by her work to be convincing. Susan Sarandon has a small part as Mike's mother.

The movie is based on a true story and is ultimately about the futility of war and the dangers of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, but I just didn't find myself caring about any of the characters and thought it was too long and too dull.
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on October 26, 2009
This movie is dark, and even gritty in some places, but it provokes thought...the nature of war and the resources individuals have to deal with the trauma of war are vastly different in the father's and the son's generations. With vastly different results...Don't know if the producer intended this to be a social commentary but it is definitely deeper than just a contemporary war flick.
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on November 4, 2013
Two thumbs up!! Didn't realize that this movie was based on a true story. Tommy Lee, Susan Sarandon and Charlize Theron played their roles very well.
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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.

Amanda Richards
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on July 28, 2014
Tommy Lee always good despite a thin, pulpy story
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on November 25, 2015
A sad movie...
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