User Score
7.3

Generally favorable reviews- based on 74 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 56 out of 74
  2. Negative: 7 out of 74

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User Reviews

  1. Feb 14, 2014
    8
    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 fatherI 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. Expand
  2. Nov 11, 2013
    10
    This is a seriously thought provoking movie. Some people will hate it because they actually NEED to live in nationalistic illusions. But for those who have eyes willing to see, and ears willing to hear, this movie asks us to really think about war... what we do to the children (ours and theirs), what we are complicit in, and what we normally refuse to see, despite the mounting statisticsThis is a seriously thought provoking movie. Some people will hate it because they actually NEED to live in nationalistic illusions. But for those who have eyes willing to see, and ears willing to hear, this movie asks us to really think about war... what we do to the children (ours and theirs), what we are complicit in, and what we normally refuse to see, despite the mounting statistics on effects on our returning soldiers. This movie was a real wake up call, with superb acting, writing and directing... it is for grown-ups, though. Expand
  3. Feb 22, 2013
    10
    In The Valley of Elah is a true story, that follows the disappearance and murder of a solider, recently returning home from Iraq. Tommy Lee Jones plays that soldiers father, a retired Military Police Officer, who launches his own investigation, and he continues to be the best actor I've ever seen. Jones rightfully received an Academy Award Nomination for this role and really should haveIn The Valley of Elah is a true story, that follows the disappearance and murder of a solider, recently returning home from Iraq. Tommy Lee Jones plays that soldiers father, a retired Military Police Officer, who launches his own investigation, and he continues to be the best actor I've ever seen. Jones rightfully received an Academy Award Nomination for this role and really should have won. No matter the film, no matter if it's good or bad, Jones simply steals the show and makes it work. Charlize Theron was also terrific as the Detective who wanted to solve the case that nobody else wanted. In most things I've seen her in, I didn't like her, but here her performance actually rivals Jones's. This film is extremely well written and very methodical. If The Valley of Elah can't keep your attention and have you on the edge of seat, talking to the screen, than nothing else will. This is honestly one of the best written, acted, and important films I've seen in a very long time. This one's going on the must see list and you will defiantly not be disappointed! Expand
  4. EssiS
    Mar 17, 2009
    7
    I liked the simplicity of this film. Tommy Lee Jones was perfectly cast and he gave an amazing performance. Well deserved Oscar nomination. Also the anti-war theme was written beautifully in the script.
  5. ClaireM.
    Jan 26, 2009
    10
    One of the best films I've seen in a,ong time. Deserves an 11. Tommy Lee Jones is marvelous in the film and Charlize Theron is very good as a woman struggling for respect in a sexist environment. This is a sad, subtle and very good movie, designed to make you feel the impact of large events on little lives...
  6. EmilieM.
    Jan 24, 2009
    10
    A heartrending tale about what war does to even good young men. Not an anti-Iraq film, as some critics complain, but a film about the dangers of war many of us never contemplate. Acting and direction was brilliant.
  7. DeanD.
    Aug 30, 2008
    9
    I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican; I am a Canadian. Now that we have that straight, I can't be labelled a liberal or a patriot. Too much attention of the reviewers was directed towards the upside down flag symbolizing America in distress. Some thought this was an anti-American action because it disrespects American soldiers. However, I was impressed that the director had I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican; I am a Canadian. Now that we have that straight, I can't be labelled a liberal or a patriot. Too much attention of the reviewers was directed towards the upside down flag symbolizing America in distress. Some thought this was an anti-American action because it disrespects American soldiers. However, I was impressed that the director had Jones, after he sees his son's picture of his squad, place only his son's military portait on the dresser and not the picture of his son with his squad. This shows Jones's character was still proud of his son but he did not agree America should be in Iraq. He believes that this is destroying America's youth. Even if they arrive back home in one piece, they have lost a part of their humanity. That is why he places the American flag upside down; it represents that America's youth returning from Iraq are in distress. I would put this movie in the same category as Tom Cruise's "Fourth of July" because both movies speak to the young Americans' souls that were irreparably damaged by a war in a faraway land that few could find on a map before hostilities began. Expand
  8. PeterK.
    Mar 12, 2008
    10
    This movie deserves an 11. Most people miss the elemental power of Tommy Lee Jones's smoldering performance and the depth of dramatic irony the writing has instilled in the part of Hank Deerfield, a father unraveling the horrific and mesmerizing truths of his son's disappearance which rivals anything that Sophocles did 2,500 years ago. This film, largely ignored by all but the This movie deserves an 11. Most people miss the elemental power of Tommy Lee Jones's smoldering performance and the depth of dramatic irony the writing has instilled in the part of Hank Deerfield, a father unraveling the horrific and mesmerizing truths of his son's disappearance which rivals anything that Sophocles did 2,500 years ago. This film, largely ignored by all but the critics, is one of the best to come out in decades. Expand
  9. ChadS.
    Feb 22, 2008
    8
    Hank Deerfield(Tommy Lee Jones) is an analog man living in a digital world. He looks like a figure in an Edward Hopper painting as he stands at the copy machine. The truck Hank drives could've been an object parked out of frame in Hopper's signature work "Nighthawks", an oil on canvas, typical of the cinema-minded artist's obsession with people in relationship to their Hank Deerfield(Tommy Lee Jones) is an analog man living in a digital world. He looks like a figure in an Edward Hopper painting as he stands at the copy machine. The truck Hank drives could've been an object parked out of frame in Hopper's signature work "Nighthawks", an oil on canvas, typical of the cinema-minded artist's obsession with people in relationship to their environment. Hank tries. He can operate a computer. But the immodesty of our times often leaves him at a loss for words(e.g. the topless waitress, a septugenarian like him, at the diner bar). Time doesn't stand still, especially at an army base, even though the protocol, the haircuts, and the congeniality of the GIs remain the sam. Looks, however, can be deceiving; as they say, you can't judge a book by its cover. Hank will come to learn that C.S. Lewis might be more knowable than his own flesh and blood. There are crashes, the same racial crashes between Whites and Hispanics like in "Crash", but it's the generational crash between the Iraqi war veterans and veterans from our fathers' wars that distinguishes "In the Valley of Elah" from this filmmaker's last hurrah. An interpretation of the vivisected body that's discovered in the field could be construed as the analogue version of the soldier's digital form being pixelated to death by the unforgiving Iraqi sun. Mike's body(and soul; because of his inhumane treatment towards the enemy) seems to be literally coming apart on his father's laptop. Hank can hardly recognize his own son. Because he's an analog man living in a digital world. Hank Deerfield is the anti-"Walker: Texas Ranger". Expand
  10. NormD.
    Feb 19, 2008
    8
    worth high marks just for willingness to show somewhat realistic, morally compromised, yet sympathetic characters.
  11. ChristianP.
    Feb 18, 2008
    7
    I really enjoyed this movie while I watched it, but in the end I was left unfulfilled...or was it too filled?? Haggis could have made the end more ambiguous and left us hanging more, but -- just like he did in Crash, he tries to make us believe something, or feel something, or think something. He tries too hard to move his audience in a certain way. This could have been a "10" but loses I really enjoyed this movie while I watched it, but in the end I was left unfulfilled...or was it too filled?? Haggis could have made the end more ambiguous and left us hanging more, but -- just like he did in Crash, he tries to make us believe something, or feel something, or think something. He tries too hard to move his audience in a certain way. This could have been a "10" but loses its steam in the end. Jones is fantastic. Also, if you write this off as being "anti-American," you are lazy. Heavy-handed? Yes. Anti-American? Not by a long shot. Expand
  12. JayH.
    Feb 12, 2008
    8
    7.5/10. Solid story, superbly acted by Charlize Theron and Tommy Lee Jones. Susan Sarandon excels as well. Heartwrenching at times, good score and well edited. Powerful and extremely well made. It's always interesting.
  13. JoseA.
    Feb 5, 2008
    9
    I think all of you Americans,who dislike this movie are completely wrong. It doesn't target,in first place,your government,even not your army,but the "beast" of war itself.Brave film Mr Haggis.And above all brave ending"SPOILER"making Tommy lee s character even more responsible than Gov/army/himself for what happened to his son.
  14. MINTONmedia
    Nov 5, 2007
    10
    I'm not a Haggis fan and have found his work consistently overrated by critics. To me, "Crash" was a muddled parable and "Million Dollar Baby" a wallow-in-it disaster. But in this film, he (with the brilliant acting assistance of Jones, Theron, Sarandon and everyone else) has hit one out of the park. By telling the story via an intriguing mystery plotline and rooting it deeply in the I'm not a Haggis fan and have found his work consistently overrated by critics. To me, "Crash" was a muddled parable and "Million Dollar Baby" a wallow-in-it disaster. But in this film, he (with the brilliant acting assistance of Jones, Theron, Sarandon and everyone else) has hit one out of the park. By telling the story via an intriguing mystery plotline and rooting it deeply in the flawed character Jones plays, he makes a "political" statement without politics...and the film works because of it. Expand
  15. DWilly
    Oct 14, 2007
    7
    A very nice film, hurt badly by virtually all the young men playing soldiers who flatten what would have been a tough ending to pull off in any case with performances that are oddly weak, I say oddly because everyone else, including one line parts, is so damn good (Jones solid as always and Charlize Theron continuously in there hitting). I think I know what Haggis wanted to say, but if A very nice film, hurt badly by virtually all the young men playing soldiers who flatten what would have been a tough ending to pull off in any case with performances that are oddly weak, I say oddly because everyone else, including one line parts, is so damn good (Jones solid as always and Charlize Theron continuously in there hitting). I think I know what Haggis wanted to say, but if you want to say it you can't do it by staying at arms length. Expand
  16. DavidZ.
    Oct 10, 2007
    9
    A very good movie. I hated the very last scene but the acting was terrific and the story compelling. Well worth a visit.
  17. JakeK.
    Oct 9, 2007
    9
    It's refreshing to finally see a movie willing to truthfully and poignantly examine the divide between the soldiers fighting in Iraq and the people they come home to. Paul Haggis manages to tell a devastating story without resorting to sentimentality or sensationalism. "In the Valley of Elah" is must-see viewing for anyone still picturing this war from a black-and-white moral It's refreshing to finally see a movie willing to truthfully and poignantly examine the divide between the soldiers fighting in Iraq and the people they come home to. Paul Haggis manages to tell a devastating story without resorting to sentimentality or sensationalism. "In the Valley of Elah" is must-see viewing for anyone still picturing this war from a black-and-white moral perspective. Tommy Lee Jones puts in a perfect restrained performance, framed beautifully by Roger Deakins' equally understated photography. I should note that I almost skipped this one because I disliked "Crash" for being so overbearing. Expand
  18. JanetA.
    Sep 25, 2007
    9
    Disturbing, haunting story about what the war in Iraq is doing to our soldiers. Considered as a movie, it is excellent, good acting, more and more information is revealed as the story goes along.
  19. [Anonymous]
    Sep 25, 2007
    9
    An extremely well-done and sensitive portrayal of what happens to good men when confronted with the horrors of mankind...unflinching in its honesty with a powerful performance by Tommy Lee Jones.
  20. Enrique
    Sep 25, 2007
    10
    Close to perfection. Extremely moving and thought provoking. One of the best movie so far this year.
  21. DottieC.
    Sep 23, 2007
    9
    My sister and I just got home from seeing the movie and having coffee after. I think the film shows more than a "predictable" ending! A proud retired military man, a wife beaten down with grief from losing a son, a couple getting by. This "proud" father sees his son in the light of reality. A young man so changed and having done things his father could never imagined he would be capable My sister and I just got home from seeing the movie and having coffee after. I think the film shows more than a "predictable" ending! A proud retired military man, a wife beaten down with grief from losing a son, a couple getting by. This "proud" father sees his son in the light of reality. A young man so changed and having done things his father could never imagined he would be capable of. He had to keep on until he "found" his son and he had to accept what he had become. He felt partly responsible, he had to hide so much from his wife, I am sure, so to spare her the pain. When Penning said so matter of factly that he stabbed Michael, you knew that they all were changed by what they had seen and done. It was so powerful the way he just said it..."I stabbed him." As we sat on a bench we struck up a conversation with a 24 year old man who had recently gotten home and discharged from the Army. We asked him lots of questions and he was quite forthright. He is now estranged from his family because when he came home he couldn't relate right away and they just didn't understand what he had been through. He does not think we had the right to go in to a "sovereign country" and take down their ruler. He said we don't see reality here. Some areas they hate us and you speed through for your own safety. I am so happy that he is alive, but he has a lot of healing to do. I think Jones acting was superb and the music haunting. I won't forget this movie. Expand
  22. SteveG.
    Sep 23, 2007
    8
    ALL performances were excellent and held true to their characters and their director's intent. No cliches, no given overly dramatic gestures. No added violence. A bit slow at times with it's solitude and singular vision, my belief is Haggis wanted to draw you in to a world if solitude and aloneness. We are all alone with this war in IRAQ and the movie touches on the theme of ALL performances were excellent and held true to their characters and their director's intent. No cliches, no given overly dramatic gestures. No added violence. A bit slow at times with it's solitude and singular vision, my belief is Haggis wanted to draw you in to a world if solitude and aloneness. We are all alone with this war in IRAQ and the movie touches on the theme of losing more than just a war. It becomes a broader question. When Susan Sarandon walks away from what's left of her son the camera stays on her and Tommy Lee's walking. Her outstretched hand the entire way says more than words could EVER say. BRILLIANT MOMENT Haggis and Sarandon! The cinematography was incredible and very palpable with it's bleached tones and very simple, bright almost shimmery angles. Expand
  23. JoelM.
    Sep 21, 2007
    8
    Terrific acting from the entire cast with dramatic photography. This is a heartwrenching, but not corny, story of the effect of war, and in particular the Iraqi war, and what it is doing to the country on a real personal level. parents.
  24. Roger
    Sep 16, 2007
    10
    This is an intense and powerful film.
Metascore
65

Generally favorable reviews - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 37
  2. Negative: 0 out of 37
  1. 40
    The movie chickens out. In the Valley of Elah could have been really interesting -- and really daring -- if it had focused on Hank's realization that his own child, supposedly a good kid, had perhaps committed the kinds of atrocities that would make any decent human being recoil. The movie (which Haggis also wrote) dances around that territory, but doesn't dare to march straight into its terrifying maw.
  2. 80
    No one could mistake the movie for a documentary, but the picture has some of the rectitude of a good documentary--a tone of plainness without flatness.
  3. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    80
    This is a sad, subtle and very good movie, designed not so much to make you think, but to make you feel the impact of large events on little lives.