Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In the Valley of Elah DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Features Tommy Lee Jones’ Oscar-Nominated Performance

When SPC Mike Deerfield (Jonathan Tucker) goes AWOL soon after returning from a tour of duty in Iraq, his father, (Tommy Lee Jones), a retired military man, decides to join the search. Bidding adieu to his anguished wife (Susan Sarandon), Hank drives from Tennessee to New Mexico in a panic, fearful because their only other child already perished in a helicopter crash while serving in the 82nd Airborne.
Upon his arrival at the base, he’s disappointed to discover that the officer in charge of missing persons (Jason Patric) is an inept pencil-pusher with little street savvy. Looking for clues on his own, Hank finds himself frequently frustrated by the less than cooperative members of Mike’s unit.
Ultimately, his rescue mission turns into a recovery effort when a charred body is found chopped to pieces on an empty lot. Although the military brass assumes jurisdiction and quickly dub Mike’s murder drug-related in a rush to judgment, former MP Hank is savvy enough to smell a bureaucratic cover-up.
So, he enlists the help of the local police and finds a sympathetic ear in Detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron). The two team-up to fill in the pieces of the grisly puzzle, and that determined effort is meticulously chronicled in this whodunit crafted as a subtle indictment of the American invasion of Iraq.
For although our intrepid protagonists retrace Mike’s steps to strip clubs for a little gratuitous nudity and other staples associated with the genre, gradual revelations about Abu Ghraib-level abuses by the suspected soldiers lay blame overseas, since ensuing post-traumatic stress disorder seems to have triggered the attack. Other than its annoying profusion of red herrings, this tortoise-paced picture is noteworthy only for squandering the services of Susan Sarandon, Charlize Theron and Tommy Lee Jones, his Oscar nomination notwithstanding.
Postwar is hell!

Fair (1.5 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, profanity, violence and disturbing content.
Running time: 121 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Extras: A deleted scene and two featurettes.

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