When Mom asked if I wanted to go see In the Valley of Elah this weekend and then went on to tell me it stars Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Surandon, and Charlize Theron, I was on board. I went into this movie knowing nothing about it, I had never even heard of it before mom called.
This movie takes its name from the story of David and Goliath, which takes place in the Valley of Elah. But it has nothing to do with the Bible.
Instead, it is based on the July 13, 2003, murder of Richard Davis, a 23-year-old Army soldier who had just returned to Fort Benning, Ga., when he was declared AWOL. The young veteran’s charred remains were discovered in the woods four months later.
The murder trial that followed revealed disturbing information about Richard Davis and the Army unit he had belonged to, including alleged war crimes they committed against civilians in Baghdad and the fact that some of the soldiers were suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
Tommy Lee Jones plays Hank Deerfield, the father of Mike, the murdered soldier and a retired Army criminal investigator. In the films beginning we learn that Mike has gone is considered AWOL. Jones' portrayal of Mike's worried father is painfully realistic.
Unfortunately, as a murder mystery, “Elah” is lacking. Once we learn the who, what, where and when about Mike’s death, the looming question of “why” — the one the PTSD angle is supposed to address — never gets answered.
Personally, I like to go to the movies to escape from reality and this one - although the acting was on point - was just a little too "real" for my liking.