In the Valley of Elah


In the Valley of Elah

Critics Consensus

Though some of Paul Haggis's themes are heavy-handed, In the Valley of Elah is otherwise an engrossing murder mystery and antiwar statement, featuring a mesmerizing performance from Tommy Lee Jones.



Total Count: 160


Audience Score

User Ratings: 29,293
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Movie Info

"In the Valley of Elah" tells the story of a war veteran, his wife and the search for their son, a soldier who recently returned from Iraq but has mysteriously gone missing, and the police detective who helps in the investigation.


Tommy Lee Jones
as Hank Deerfield
Charlize Theron
as Det. Emily Sanders
Jason Patric
as Lt. Kirklander
Susan Sarandon
as Joan Deerfield
James Franco
as Sgt. Dan Carnelli
Barry Corbin
as Arnold Bickman
Josh Brolin
as Chief Buchwald
Wes Chatham
as Cpl. Steve Penning
Jake McLaughlin
as Spc. Gordon Bonner
Mehcad Brooks
as Spc. Ennis Long
Jonathan Tucker
as Mike Deerfield
Wayne Duvall
as Detective Nugent
Victor Wolf
as Private Robert Ortiz
Chris Browning
as Checker Box Bartender
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News & Interviews for In the Valley of Elah

Critic Reviews for In the Valley of Elah

All Critics (160) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (117) | Rotten (43)

  • Jones' Oscar-nominated performance is impeccably judged. His low-key turn as a man forced to question everything from the kind of father he was to the nature of the country he fought for could be the contender to give Daniel Day-Lewis a run for his money.

    Jan 24, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • Powerful, downbeat drama with an anti-war message.

    Jan 24, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Neil Smith
    Top Critic
  • This is Jones' show and he makes you feel a father's fear and loss in ways that are subtly heartbreaking, never melodramatic.

    Sep 26, 2007
  • The movie isn't nearly as obvious or redundant as writer-director Paul Haggis's previous film, the Oscar-winning Crash, but it still feels like the work of someone trying too hard to enlighten you.

    Sep 22, 2007 | Rating: 2/4
  • The failure to avoid pat answers and cheap grandstanding dogs Haggis here as surely as it did in the overrated Crash, and robs In the Valley of Elah of much of its power.

    Sep 21, 2007 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • In the Valley of Elah is another in a long line of great Tommy Lee Jones performances.

    Sep 21, 2007 | Rating: 5/5

Audience Reviews for In the Valley of Elah

  • Sep 03, 2015
    An excellent film. The acting that Tommy Lee Jones, and particularly Charlize Theron, do in this film is nothing short of phenomenal. I'm so glad that I watched was a real gem.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer
  • Dec 21, 2013
    Heartbreakingly real, "In The Valley Of Elah" tells the story of a veteran father looking for his AWOL son after his return from Iraq. Paul Haggis, best known for his directing in "Crash" delivers yet another emotionally charged drama, where every clue and every interview with a suspect leads the characters further and further down a rabbit hole, no closer to finding out what actually happened. Tommy Lee Jones plays the veteran father, with his cold, stern glare, following in the footsteps of other greats who played parts like this, most notably Jack Nicholson in "The Pledge". Both bring about very stoic performances, but both command their roles and both authentically come across like the men that they play, deliberate and focused, with emotions running deep. Charlize Theron plays the local police detective, but gets pigeonholed into the lowly female position in a department full of men who have zero respect for her, a role she often finds herself in. Despite this, she plays off Jones exceptionally and gives the film enough star power to keep it feeling fresh, instead of dated. The conclusion of "In The Valley Of Elah" is a slow burn, nothing heightened, but wholly chilling and a true testament to the position this film takes on the war in Iraq and war in general. The result is a film that sits with you long after the credits and the imagery have faded.
    Christopher H Super Reviewer
  • May 23, 2012
    A fairly decent film with a great performance from Theron, however I just wasn't too bothered about what happened. I couldn't really empathise with Hank as much as I would have liked and was just waiting for it to be over really. I didn't feel there was much mystery and it just didn't affect me.
    Sophie B Super Reviewer
  • May 22, 2012
    Oh my God. What a great film from Paul Haggis. This man has written let's see..."Million Dollar Baby", "Casino Royale", "Flags Of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima" and directed "Crash". In this film Haggis excells high as a filmmaker "In The Valley Of Elah" a film that moved me and drained me throughout. In one of his best performances Tommy Lee Jones plays a Vietnam veteran named Hank Deerfield, now hauling gravel in Tennessee. He gets a call from the Army that his son Mike, just returned from a tour in Iraq, is AWOL from his squad at Fort Rudd. That sounds wrong. He tells his wife, Joan (Susan Sarandon), that he's going to drive down there and take a look into things. He checks into a shabby motel. His journey in the area takes him into topless bars, restaurants, the local police station, the base military police operation and a morgue where he's shown something cut into pieces and burned, and he IDs the remains as his son. Looking through his son's effects, he asks as a distraction if can have his Bible, while he's pocketing his son's cell phone. It's been nearly destroyed by heat, but a friendly technician salvages some video from it, filled with junk artifacts but still retaining glimpses of what it recorded on video: glimpses of hell. The cast is top notch and believable 100 percent. Tommy Lee Jones shines as Hank but I was particularly impressed with Charlize Theron (I don't like her to be honest) as police detective Emily Sanders who is never seen as a sex symbol or a romance object, she is a real woman just trying to do her job and raise her child. Susan Suranadon is heartbreaking as Deerfield's wife and Jason Patric as a sly homicide detective. This movie reminds me of the 1956 film "The Searchers" with John Wayne on his search for his neice Debbie but Haggis hasn't ripped off that film. Oh no. Haggis brings so much emotional depth and confidence to his drama pic one can't help but notice and just again be mesmerized by the film's tone. This is a great film, a true film and a treasure.
    Brian R Super Reviewer

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