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In the Valley of Elah a.k.a. “Death and Dishonor”

MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for violent and disturbing content, language and some sexuality/nudity

Reviewed by: Spencer Schumacher

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Drama, Thriller, Adaptation
2 hr. 4 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 14, 2007 (7 major markets), September 21 (wide)
Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures

What is the “Valley of Elah”?

Murder in the Bible

Nudity—Why are humans supposed to wear clothes? Answer

Featuring: Tommy Lee Jones
The Fugitive,’ ‘Men in Black
Charlize Theron
North Country,’ ‘Monster
James Franco
Flyboys,’ ‘Spider-Man 2
Josh Brolin
Melinda and Melinda,’ ‘Into the Blue
Susan Sarandon
Jason Patric
Jonathan Tucker
The Deep End
Frances Fisher
House of Sand and Fog,’ ‘Titanic
Mehcad Brooks
Glory Road
Rick Gonzalez, Barry Corbin, Brad William Henke, Brent Briscoe, Wayne Duvall
Director: Paul Haggis
Casino Royale,” “Crash,” “Million Dollar Baby
Producer: Emilio Diez Barroso, Erik Feig, Stanley J. Wlodkowski
Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures

“Sometimes finding the truth is easier than facing it.”

As many Bible scholars undoubtedly know, the Valley of Elah is the venue of the historic battle between courage and intimidation, the battle between David and Goliath. In director Paul Haggis’ (who won best picture in 2005 for the film “Crash”) latest movie, Tommy Lee Jones plays a deeply religious man caught in a valley of despair as he tries to pick up the pieces of his son’s tragic demise.

The movie follows Hank Deerfield’s (Tommy Lee Jones) attempt to find his son, a military soldier who has recently returned stateside from a tour of duty in Iraq. Back from Iraq, he has been reported missing by his military commanders. Hank and his wife Joan (Susan Sarandon) instantly know that something is not right with the disappearance of their upright, by-the-numbers son. Hank, a former military man himself, leaves their Tennessee home to pursue his own investigation and find his son.

During the pursuit, Hank runs up against resistance from both the army as well as the local police force who refuse to issue a “missing persons” report since the missing person is property of the army. While attempting to get the report made, Hank is passed along to Detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron). Sanders is sympathetic to Hank, but explains that since his son is a military officer, it is out of her jurisdiction. Hank presses the guilt card by insisting that it is because his son is serving in Iraq that he should be treated better.

Shortly after Hank leaves, news comes to the station that remnants of a body have been found in the desert. The burnt remains are identified as those of Mike Deerfield, Hank’s son.

Detective Sanders meets Hank and apologizes for the loss of his son, as well as her treatment of the situation. Hank persuades her to take him to the scene of the crime. It is at this juncture that the search changes from looking for his son to finding out how he came to die.

The movie does have the typical amount of swearing by the military personnel as well as the profanity of the police force. There isn’t a lot of actual on-screen violence, save a couple fights and beat downs, most of the violence is seen after the fact in gruesome post-mortem shots of dead bodies in Iraq battles. The scenes at the morgue and the police crime scenes display post-mortem material that may be unsettling to some.

There is no sex, but a few scenes of nudity—firstly, as the camera tracks through the army barracks and showers of the men’s military base. Audience members should definitely be warned of the trips that Hank takes to a couple strip clubs while investigating his son’s death. The first one comes fairly early in the movie and kind of pops up from nowhere, so be advised, when Hank says he’s going to a club and you hear the music start to gear up be prepared that he’s about to step into a strip club where about a half dozen women are dancing around and shaking their merchandise. The second trip comes around the end of the film and is not as long or revealing.

The performances from the entire cast are great, and the story is compelling as it weaves this tragic story of one soldiers’ tragic fate.

The film is rated R and has a running time of 124 minutes.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Neutral+I gave this movie a “neutral” rating due to all the very unnecessary nudity. There were several raunchy scenes of topless women bartending and pole dancing. These were full on, in your face shots, not just the camera quickly panning by. For me, this ruined the movie. Aside from that, I found this movie to be incredibly impactful. Having a son who will be joining the military, it was incredibly difficult for me to watch as I ached for what these parents were going through. Equally as horrifying was realizing that much of what was depicted as reality for our soldiers while they’re overseas is likely to be true. It was a very disturbing thought. Great acting and a very emotional, engaging plot made this a movie I’ll never forget. My recommendation: Rent it when it comes out on DVD and skip the bar scenes. They aren’t crucial to the plot.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4½
Rachelle Smotherman, age 34