Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket“War. What is it good for? Movie scripts for one.”

_ In the Valley of Elah _ Title: In the Valley of Elah

At the root of every solid film is solid acting. Acting that immediately draws you in to a character and ultimately the film. In the Valley of Elah, the new film from Crash director Paul Haggis stars three actors with Academy Award winner after their name. Granted this doesn’t always mean success but this time the trio delivers near perfect performances. The lead actor leads and the two supporting actors support. When that occurs scenes run like a well oiled machine. Even through scenes that border on tedium.

Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones) is a retired Military cop whose son goes missing after returning from Iraq. Hank teams up with a struggling detective (Charlize Theron) to try and uncover the truth and overcome small town politics and military secrecy. This film is a bold look at military men and the decisions they make. Not all are upstanding heroes and Hank runs the risk of discovering which line his son walked. Though not necessarily an anti military piece, it does touch on the fact that just because someone is in the military and even “fighting for our country” in no way makes them a model citizen or honorable individual. It makes you wonder if most of what goes on abroad is even remotely humane. And the result of which effects us here at home even more.

There is a reason Paul Haggis writes and directs Oscar Winning films. He has a way of making characters and dialogue sync. There is nothing flashy about his films. They are raw and real. This, added to the acting mentioned before, is golden. Susan Sarandon completes the trifecta as Hanks wife Joan. Though her scenes are few they are poignant and get at the heart of what a mom must go through in a military family. Sarandon has been pretty low key since Moonlight Mile but leaves no doubts here about her status in H-Town.

In the Valley of Elah is rated R for violent and disturbing content, language and some sexuality/nudity. This is a film designed for adults and there is no reason to take your under 17 movie mate. It deals with mature themes and explicit content. The nudity is kept to strip clubs and a brief military shower scene and you could easily fulfill your boob quota watching this film. Still, it is not gratuitous but used to further the stories elements and surroundings. I give the film 3.75 out of 5 bedtime stories. The acting and writing alone made this a standout flick. It drags slightly at the end which keeps me from going a full 4. Worth seeing but definitely know before you go.

Matt Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com)(09/20/07)

“Matt is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association (NTFCA) and co-hosts a weekly radio feature, The Mungles on Movies, with his wife Cindy. For additional reviews, interview clips and great DVD giveaways, visit the website www.mungleshow.com”

Review copyright 2007 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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