Slow-burning thriller that lacks dramatic focus
While Hank's wife (Susan Sarandon) waits nervously for news, her husband seeks answers from Mike's superior Sergeant Carnelli (James Franco) and military policeman Lieutenant Kirklander (Jason Patric).
They seem unconcerned by the boy's absence so Hank enlists help from local cop, Detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), a single mother weathering the storm of her station's institutionalised sexism. When Mike's charred remains are discovered on wasteland and the military glosses over the facts, the resourceful father demands justice.
In The Valley Of Elah is a slow-burning thriller inspired by true events, begging provocative questions about shades of morality in a war zone. Writer-director Paul Haggis struggles to generate sufficient dramatic momentum to carry the film through two hours and his script spends too long fretting over a series of fragmented mobile phone video messages, which hold the key to the mystery, and too little on the characters.
Jones brings a rugged determination to his war-horse father, who tramples authority to honour a son's memory. When Lieutenant Kirklander tries to stop Hank viewing Mike's body ("This isn't necessary and it's not the way you want to remember your son"), the father is resolute. "Maybe not," growls Hank, "but it's the way he left this earth so I don't see as I have a choice."
Theron's ballsy heroine is underwritten and Sarandon, Patric and co make the most of their peripheral characters.
Extras include After Iraq and Coming Home featuring, an interview with the director, additional scenes and the theatrical trailer.