In the Valley of Elah (2007)
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Tommy Lee Jones is a former military police investigator looking for his missing son, freshly returned from Iraq, with the help of Charlize Theron's police detective in Paul Haggis' In the Valley of Elah, based on true events though all the numbers have been filed off. As a mystery, it keeps making you think it's one of those uncovered conspiracy numbers, but the truth is less satisfying, though possibly more thought-provoking. The investigation beats are strong no matter what you think of the solution, and the setting - a town whose economy is basically the local military base - is an interesting one. I like a movie with a real sense of place. This is a film with a lot of grit, by which I mean that it's rich in detail, both physical and psychological, detail that makes it feel real as opposed to written. At the heart of the picture is an exploration of what it means to be a soldier, and though there's of course anti-war sentiment a-plenty, I don't think it's anti-military. Through Jones' character especially, we see a deep empathy for those young men and women who are sent off into the Valley. It's just that the sacrifice they make may be more than what we usually think of as a sacrifice. With some great acting on show as well, Elah rises above the typical "true events" fare.
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