Saturday, 20 November 2010

In the Valley of Elah

If you like Tommy Lee Jones' performances as a law enforcement officer then this will rank up there amongst his best - almost as good as No Country for Old Men. This is a tense and well-paced thriller that explores the inhumanity of the unintended consequences of war. There is also a very good performance from Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon does the morose mother thing she is so good at.

When you take young men (and it mostly is) who are full of life, a sense of adventure and a desire to serve their country and turn them into killing machines and deploy them in an inhospitable and alien land to fight an enemy they can't see or understand, is it any wonder that they lose the ability to see where the boundaries are when they return home? This story exposes the full horror of modern warfare and the terrible things it does to those who answer the call to duty and place themselves in jeopardy. Taking the risks of bullets and bombs in Iraq is one thing. Dying because you fall out with your mates in a bar or chicken restaurant is something else - but both are unintended consequences of intervening as world police. This film should be sub-titled 'Team America: Gone Wrong'.

The pain and anguish suffered by Jones and Sarandon's characters as parents impotent in the face of a military juggernaut is powerfully portrayed. The ability of institutions, in this case the Army and the Police, to close ranks and freeze the ordinary person out is chillingly scary. The film is punctuated with movie clips shot on patrol by Jones' son in Iraq - including an instance when he is forced to run over a child. Branded a thriller - this could so easily be a horror movie - perhaps should be.

How any national leader can sleep at night after sending their country's finest into the cauldron of hatred and warfare is a good question to ask.

An agonising watch - but you should see it as in doing so we pay homage to those fighting on our behalf. This film is enough to make anyone a pacifist!

I'll give it 7.5/10.

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