In The Valley Of Elah Paul Haggis

In The Valley Of Elah Paul Haggis
With Crash, Paul Haggis assumed the role once played by Stanley Kramer: a hero to phoney liberals and a punch line to real ones. Still, In the Valley of Elah shows that the king of well-meaning message movies is completely genuine in his convictions, if not entirely sure of what he’s doing. Tommy Lee Jones knocks it out of the park as the ex-military man who investigates the disappearance of his Iraq veteran son. Given conflicting reports by his fellow soldiers and higher-ups, the young man’s butchered corpse soon shows up, with the crime scene strangely not investigated. Assisted by beleaguered civilian cop Charlize Theron, Jones digs up the evidence of not only the murder but the indifference of the military and the terrible deeds of which the victim may possibly be guilty. I deliberately missed Haggis’s Oscar-winner (after widespread derision in the alternative press), so the surface credibility of the movie came as a bit of a shock. Though Jones provides most of the subtext as a God-fearing, flag-worshipping man who has the definition of his country shattered, one gets a genuine sense of betrayal and sadness beyond the usual complacent hand-wringing and grandstanding. Still, one would have to be fairly dim in the post-Vietnam era to buy into half the stuff that the protagonist does, and as Haggis appears to have believed them just as fervently, the director gives into his own disillusionment rather than mounting a credible engagement with the issues. But in spite of the usual speechifying and thriller-ish plot machinations, it makes an interesting footnote to American’s newly re-lost moral cherry, although it might play better as a time capsule contemplated 20 years from now. Extras include a meandering two-part "making of” doc and one deleted scene. (Warner Independent)