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Film Critics: Today, December 13, winners from Dallas ForthWorthFCA, ChicagoFCA and Film Comment Magazine. Nominations from HoustonFCS, PhoenixCC. PhoenixFCS.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

In The Valley of Elah


I was going to write that this movie is a hard to watch film but no, it is not. When you know the end then it is hard, but it is not until the very end that you realize how hard and important is the message this movie is sending.

Written and directed by Paul Haggis this “who done it” and “what happen” movie is very good especially because exceptional Tommy Lee Jones performance as Hank Deerfield a retired career officer looking for his son after he disappeared following his return from a tour of duty in Iraq.

The story is a fictional recount of a real life Iraq war veteran murdered upon his return home in 2003 and his father, a former military police officer, mounting his own investigation into the crime and this is basically the outline of this movie. A story that keeps you glued to the screen trying to figure out who’s the killer and what really happened. While you’re puzzled figuring out everything, things start to be shown and later than sooner you realize that this movie is not really about the crime, is about something else and that’s when the movie and the story will hit you hard.

Here we also have Charlize Theron and she’s very good as Detective Emily Sanders a woman struggling for respect in a sexist environment and the one that really helps Deerfield to uncover everything. There are also small but very good performances by Susan Sarandon as Deerfield wife, Frances Fisher as the bartender who aids the investigation and Jason Patric as Lt. Kirklander. Even the very small appearance of Josh Brolin as Chief Buchwald is noteworthy. So it is a film well acted, smart written, well directed and with a tense and eventually disturbing story.

Not a fan of Haggis films (I like him better as a writer), but I found the exception, this movie is really good and has won already the SIGNIS award at the 2007 Venice Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Lion in the same fest. Also Tommy Lee Jones has an Oscar nomination for Best Actor and he really deserves the honor. Jones has another nomination in the 2008 London Critics Circle Film Awards and was nominated in the Satellite Awards.

Annie Lennox sings the last song in the film while the credits are on; the name is Lost and is included in her 2007 CD called Songs Of Mass Destruction. Extremely good song and very “à propos” to this movie.

According to what I read, American viewer’s reactions to this movie are half positive and half not positive; while most American critics generally consider the movie thought provoking, timely and moving. Not for all audiences and especially not for those that does not like to see truth in the screen, as this movie is like the tagline says: “sometimes finding the truth is easier than facing it”.

I strongly recommend this movie for the extraordinary performance by Tommy Lee Jones and the rich food for thought story it tells. This is not another movie to enjoy, as the end is very hard to swallow.

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