In The Valley Of Elah

Year: 2007

Writer: Paul Haggis (story and screenplay), Mark Boal (story)

Director: Paul Haggis

Budget: ?

Gross: $6 777 589

after seeing the junk that was the new james bond movie: Quantum Of Solace (check out Not Good Movies for my take on that disappointing mess) i needed to confirm my appreciation for Paul Haggis.  i know he was only one of the three writers of the bond film, but his name in that trio was one of the things that had excited me the most about seeing the film (besides it being bond and having some pretty cool trailers and the like)...

haggis, for those of you wondering why i am such a fan, is the academy award winning writer/director of Crash from a few years back and before that the creator of one of my favorite television shows of all time, EZ Streets - it didn't even last half a season (i think they aired 9 episodes) before cbs canceled it, but it was so damn good (he was also the man behind The Black Donnelleys - another great tv show canceled way to soon).  lucky for me, haggis' last directing effort In The Valley Of Elah was playing on my movie network this past week and i had tivo'd it, so it was there waiting for me when i got home from work the next day, and let me just say, confirmation complete!!

In The Valley Of Elah was released in september of last year and pretty much bombed.  i don't know what the budget was, but only grossing just under $7 million is probably not what they were hoping for. the film was one of many war-themed films released in 2007 with high-profile actors and high aspirations that went nowhere at the box office - remember Rendition and Lions For Lambs anyone?

now, i haven't seen those other two, but i can tell you that In The Valley Of Elah had a right to hope for bigger things.  this is a good film.

the movie is about, to quote imdb: A career officer (tommy lee jones) and his wife work with a police detective to uncover the truth behind their son's disappearance following his return from a tour of duty in Iraq.

what really struck we about the film was how simple it was.  the opening scene has tommy lee jones getting a phone call asking if he knows where his son is and from there his search begins.  there is no big preamble or anything like that.  the movie starts and there we go, but this isn't some grand melodrama as one might expect from such a premise. 

tommy lee jones' character is a retired army officer and so he often keeps his emotions close to his chest, and the film seems to follow suite.  i didn't find myself on an emotional roller-coaster, but rather a more steady ride in which the moments of melodrama felt almost more real and less hollywoodized because of it.

i think however, this had much to do with the story itself.  things don't go as expected.  i am not sure how to talk about this without giving too much of the story away, but just to say that haggis doesn't gloss over characters that you might expect the film to.  some discoveries made reveal aspects of people that aren't always delved into in hollywood films in order to provide the audience with a strong emotional attachment that can be manipulated.  but few people are all good and by allowing for some 'bad' to be discovered i felt really strengthened the film and even made some of the overhanded moments less cringe-worthy and personally gave them more of an impact.