Movie Review: In the Valley of Elah

Posted September 7th, 2007 by SgtStryker

The Iraq War is the basis for many new movies, and the current film, “In the Valley of Elah” we see fiction imitating reality. Directed by Paul Haggis, who wrote the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby, Crash, and Casino Royale, Paul Haggis definitely brings experience and expertise to the viewers with In the Valley of Elah.

In the Valley of Elah features an all-star cast including Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon, Jonathan Tucker, James Franco, Frances Fisher, Tim McGraw, Jason Patric, and Mehcad Brooks.

The movie is based upon the true story of Specialist Richard R. Davis. After returning home from Iraq, Specialist Davis and four of his friends went out. Specialist Davis never made it back. He was stabled thirty three times and then his body was burned. Two of his friends later confessed to the crime.

In the Valley of Elah tells the story of Mike Deerfield who ends up missing and goes AWOL. Tommy Lee Jones plays his father, and Susan Sarandon plays his mother. Charlize Theron plays a police detective who tries to unravel the mystery.

One thing is certain; many people will play close attention to In the Valley of Elah due to the notoriety of Paul Haggis. With so many outstanding films, people expect this one to do well, however, it should be stated that the U.S. Military has not endorsed the film.

The movie does cause great concerns regarding how the war will impact the troops in the long run. It is very sad and a stark reality that war is one of the world’s greatest atrocities, and our troops are not being spared any of the horrors. We know that our troops are dealing with lifelong disabilities, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, and Suicide. Now, we are looking at the consequences of war on personalities that may have already had serious emotional and psychological flaws.

That is the question that people are asking, as it appears that many of our troops are exhibiting signs of anti social personality disorder and are acting out in increasingly violent ways.

You’ll find that after In the Valley of Elah hits the screens, that more of these questions will surface in conversation. People want to know what the effects of the war will have on the troops and citizens in the long run, and there really is no way to predict the future. All we can do is wait until all of our troops return home to find out what the major effects will be.

How do you feel about the latest war films? It does seem as though more people are dealing with the war through film. It may be that thanks to sites like You Tube and My Space, people are already viewing numerous movies and clips from the Iraq conflict. Today, media is readily available in all forms. Do you think this is good or bad? What are your views of seeing a movie about the war while we are still in war? Typically, it seems that movies are only released after the war is over. The movie is getting favorable reviews from soldiers who have stated that it is very realistic. In the Valley of Elah will be released on September 21, 2007.

6 Responses to “Movie Review: In the Valley of Elah”

  1. maraboo

    I saw “in the Valley of Elah” and I was bothered by the scene where soldiers mow down a child in the street in Iraq because of orders “not to stop under any circumstance” and then the soldier stops and gets out and takes a picture of the body!

    I asked Haggis about it at a press event and he said that scene was based on a different incident that a soldier told him about…so what’s actually true to the SPC Davis murder in the movie and what just was good to throw in to drive a political point home? Just wondering…

    And how do we have a serious discussion about the effects of the war based on a fictionalized film based on a true story with bits of other stories thrown in?

    And how heavy handed is it to have 2 (overly telegraphed) shots of the upside down flag — I know Haggis is Canadian, but does he really think we Americans don’t realize we’re in a state of distress over this war?

    We need to examine this war and the effects on our troops and our society and what we’re doing in the world — but do we need to vilify our troops to do it?

    I just don’t like the idea of the return of the steely-eyed babykiller stereotype of our military — we’ve seen what it did to our troops returning from Vietnam…

  2. sherrillynn

    What are your views of seeing a movie about the war while we are still in war?

    I think that in this day and age anything less would be tantamount to denying U.S. citizens their right to free speech. I’m all for that right, btw.

  3. gigimn

    I guess my concern is more about the highly payed civilian Solders of Fortune,who seem to be free from prosecution.
    I did not see this movie but will watch when it is released on DVD
    In Minnesota one of the local VFW clubs had a major fund raiser to help the homeless vets in and nera St. Cloud Mn. About 100 of them living under bridges near St. Cloud Vets Hosp.
    So many suffering from mental illness, anxiety and depression.
    Would this have happened if they had not been to Iraq?
    I guess we will never know.
    Thank you for your website.

  4. a beautiful day in the Hood

    Regarding seeing this movie while a war is going on: it needs to be done. The public would be shocked to know how many vets are committing suicide when returning. There’s a sign on post how many days it’s been since a soldier was “lost” due to ends like vehicular suicide. I have picked up two friends returning from Iraq, and it was immediately apparent they were severely disturbed after the travel sedation wore off. After a few drinks on homecoming night, one of them relayed to me the source of his disturbance. Nothing I have seen in any movies or media relays the horror of what he had done and would have to live with the rest of his life. A few days later I looked into treatment options for him as he was only a few miles from one of the top post hospitals in the country. However, since at that time I believe that he was only entitled to 7-10 days treatment, it seemed pointless, and as he was afraid it would go in his file, deny him promotion, and so refused to seek treatment. I didn’t know what else to do except visit when possible. He was definitely suicidal.

    The picture is not all bleak though; recently Tricare has started acknowlodging PTSD, and when I had my own experience with it, the ARMY PTSD Training Pack really helped me keep my sanity. This online video helped me know what to expect with a diagnosis of MBI/PTSD. The public needs to be made much more aware of what a serious problem these brave people are facing and we in the medical fields must develop better family education and patient support systems for returning vets, and estimated 1 in 3 will need treatment. That’s alot.
    These studies also will help the general public, as the area of neurology is in it’s infancy in terms of what happens when the brain receives a concussive blow. These studies would benefit civilian MVA patients greatly. It’s all about education and access to help that doesn’t bring a penalty to the one seeking to be healed.


    I had not planned to watch this movie, but it was on HBO when I came into my hotel room and was immediately riveted. Besides the outstanding artistic tour-de-force, I kept thinking–Is this what is really going on? I am distrustful of Hollywood characterizations, but I kept feeling like I was learning something–something more horrible than I had realized. I wanted to know the real soldier on the ground’s opinion of this movie, so I Googled & wandered in here. Now what I sense is it is true enough–true enough.

    There is another movie (and book, by Richard Price) called “Clockers” about dealing drugs in NYC. It contains the similar theme of “How could a person who we know would never do something like this do something like this.”

    For similar reasons,it turns out. Certain environments turn certain people into people capable of ghastly things. It goes to (please excuse me) the myth of the vampire. You have to be dead to behave in certain ways. This movie makes the point that these soldiers were dead in parts of their psyche.

    I thought the confessed murderer made that point so chillingly. The polite deference and the confession, “then I was stabbing him….” No malice–was hard to hate him, even blame him.

    This movie had a real impact on me. I cried.

    I am so sorry for all you had and have to go through.

  6. oohraw20

    Yall are all stupid u can’t imagine the things you go through over there…when you get orders and don’t go through with them either you or your best friend right next to you can die. I have been there OIF1-3 since then I have realized that was not what i wanted to do anymore I now work on helos(cobras and hueys) when you are there its them or you and you have about .2 seconds to react, or they will. Yea I cried when I saw this movie it reminds me of the choices I made there. If I could go back I wouldn’t change anything b/c whos to say I would be here today, I did things I wont even talk about w/my wife. I still sleep with a gun under my pillow, I wake up sweating, I wake up and sometimes jump out of bed and start running around before I realize where I am at. Yea PTSD…whatever I can live like this i would rather not, but the way I see it. If I go through this now and everyone who served with me, maybe my kids or your kids wont have too…thats what matters most to me, the future of this country.

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