In the Valley of Elah

CRIME DRAMA; 2hr 1min

STARRING: Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon

Secrets and lies: Theron and Jones

After a child goes missing, a parent’s first duty is to try to find them. And sometimes in the searching, the absent person’s secrets become the real objective. When Mike Deerfield (Jonathan Tucker) goes AWOL after serving in Iraq, his father, Hank (Jones), a former military man as neat and rigid as a pin, leaves his bewildered wife (Sarandon) in their Tennessee home and travels to Mike’s army base in New Mexico. His son’s burned remains are found soon enough: what Hank needs now are reasons. He sets up camp in a motel and with the help of local detective Emily Sanders (Theron), a shrewd operator in a patronising man’s world, starts asking hard questions.


Jones has understatement down to a finely nuanced art, as does Theron, in her crisp, gutsy way. Crash director Paul Haggis probing, from-fact screenplay about the psychological toll of combat is pitched similarly low and steady as a grieving Hank discovers that the deadliest enemy confronting a soldier could turn out to be himself.