Generally favorable reviews - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 37
  2. Negative: 0 out of 37
  1. 100
    Paul Haggis' In the Valley of Elah is built on Tommy Lee Jones' persona, and that is why it works so well. The same material could have been banal or routine with an actor trying to be "earnest" and "sincere."
  2. Reviewed by: Tamara Straus
    For the most part it is an effective, disturbing and - a rarity for Haggis - subtle exploration of the stateside war story.
  3. It's the first Hollywood Iraq movie to remind me of a Vietnam film like Coming Home, and it does more than disturb. It scalds, moves, and heals.
  4. A deeply reflective, quietly powerful work that is as timely as it is moving.
  5. Tommy Lee Jones is marvelous in the film. He has one scene in particular, a simple two-person encounter, that's as good as it gets in the realm of American screen acting.
  6. 88
    Theron is very good as a woman struggling for respect in a sexist environment. There are also small but telling performances by Susan Sarandon as Hank's worried wife, and Frances Fisher as a topless bartender who aids in the investigation.
  7. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    A rare blend of emotional content and intelligent material that makes it simultaneously gut-wrenching and thought-provoking.
  8. 83
    Transcends politics and forces us to consider just what it is we ask of young people who answer the call to duty.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 69 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 26 out of 34
  2. Negative: 5 out of 34
  1. LanceD.
    Feb 26, 2008
    Intriguing yet disappointing. Haggis did not explore Tommy Jones realization that his "good boy" son had morphed into a man performing unspeakable deeds while serving in an Army which he had influenced his son to join. The ending with the flag and the school janitor made me LOL so hard. It was so indignant and ungrateful to our troops and country. I have completely lost hope for Hollywood drama movies. If they cannot realize that the problem is the PRODUCT and not the buyers for the slumping movie industry than they are truly disconnected and have a mental disease. Enough with the Anti-America, Anti-War, Anti-Republican movies. We get it, Hollywood is overflowing with liberals. Full Review »
  2. CydneyB.
    Sep 14, 2007
    Except for Tommy Lee Jones' performance, this is a predictable piece of Hollywood schlock. Treachly music at end... Charlize Theron is just plain boring, and Susan Sarandon is wasted. What a snore. Full Review »
  3. Feb 14, 2014
    I think that people are generally mistaken when they label a person as pro-war. War is a terrible, but sometimes necessary thing. Some people have written that this is an anti war movie, which is a very simplistic view and does not do the movie justice. This is a movie about the sudden transition from battle to being home and the consequences of that sudden transition. My father was in WW2 and saw battle. The transition time for him between battle and being home was longer due to the logistics of being home so many solders. He, and most solders in WW2, came home via ocean. I think the one month or so transition time between battle and being home helped by being a buffer time in which he could share experiences with others who had similar experiences and decompress. Was this a cure? No. Was it better? I think so. I don't think this movie questions the awful necessity for war, but it addresses our unrealistic expectations about soldiers reintegrating into a home atmosphere. As with most movies it focuses on the extreme visible edge of what can happen. While most soldiers do not display this type of behavior, the impact on their lives can be devastating for years. We all need to step back and treat our returning soldiers with respect and realize that while we will never understand their trauma, we can help them reintegrate into society with kindness and respect. Full Review »