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You fight a lot of monsters?


In the Valley of Elah
(2007)

After Crash, which had its moments but frequently just came across as trite speechifying, I didn't expect Paul Haggis to follow it up with something as measured and thoughtful as this. 

Taking the Iraq War theme and wrapping it in a murder mystery may sound like a recipe for shallowness, but he skillfully uses it as a jumping off point, so exploring themes of loss and the dehumanisation of warfare. 

Tommy Lee Jones is magnificent and Charlize Theron matches him in a less showy role. Susan Sarandon gets short shrift; you get the impression she did this as a gesture of support for the content more than anything else. I'd kind of written off Haggis as a hack following Crash, and his WWII Eastwood flicks seemed a little too earnest, but he's come up with the goods here.

****1/2

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