DVD Review: In the Valley of Elah

On Inside the Actors Studio Will Smith said of his Men in Black co-star, Tommy Lee Jones; ‘I’m with Tommy Lee til the wheels fall off.’ Amen from me. I’ve seen pieces I liked better than others, but I’ve never once thought he phoned it in. And he surly didn’t phone in “In the Valley of Elah” where we see the heart of a retired MP spit and polish guy who remakes the bed in his motel room to military specs and pulls a wet shirt out of a laundromat dryer to put on when he speaks to a woman, bleed out through the creases in that great road map of a face.The man does nice work and I think this is one of his best. I also don’t think it got its due. He and Susan Sarandon are simply awesome (in the old! sense of the word-I don’t know how the hell they use it now).

Hank Deerfield gets a phone call telling him his son better get back to Base PDQ(pretty damn quick) or be listed as AWOL. Last Hank knew Mike was in Iraq. No phone calls, no Mike. What’s up? He goes to the Base to find out, finding out all to soon that Mike has met with the foulest of foul play. But it doesn’t make sense. Mike was a good kid and a good soldier, why would somebody cut him to pieces and burn the body? Why indeed?

Military Police don’t really want to know and the Civilian Police (Charlize Theron) can’t be bothered until some things Hank points out at the crime scene he brow beat her into taking him too start to add up for her.It is very much to her credit that she was not blown off the screen by this TLJ behemoth.

Susan Sarandon only has a few scenes in the film but my lord is she good in them and the Morgue scene wiith she and Tommy Lee will pin you back in your chair like a centrifuge ride at the Fair. These two veterans should get some kind of campaign ribbon for this film.

I always worry about giving away too much of the story in the review, so I sometimes think I give too little. Let me just say if you are a Tommy Lee Jones fan, rush out the door, knock the paper kid off his bicycle and get to the video store PDQ.

There is a decent documentary in the specials and an extra scene. No commentary.

This is a good story, a good mystery, with performances you won’t soon forget. Written by Paul Haggis and Mark Boal with screenplay and direction by Haggis

Order In the Valley of Elah from Amazon.

Lee Crawford
For more reviews from Lee, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.