In the Valley of Elah

Theatrical Release: September 21, 2007
In the Valley of Elah


Sometimes finding the truth is easier than facing it. On his first weekend back after serving in Iraq, Mike Deerfield (Jonathan Tucker) goes missing and is reported AWOL. When Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones), a former military MP and his wife Joan (Susan Sarandon) get the phone call with the disturbing news, Hank sets out to search for their son. Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), a police detective in the jurisdiction where Mike was last seen, reluctantly helps him in his search.

As the evidence grows, her missing person’s case begins to look more and more like foul play, and soon Sanders finds herself in a fight with the military brass as she and Hank struggle to keep control of the investigation. But when the truth about Mike’s time in Iraq finally begins to emerge, Hank’s entire world is challenged and he’s forced to reevaluate long-held beliefs to solve the mystery behind his son’s disappearance.

Dove Review

This film had a couple of F words in it before one scene appeared on screen! During the opening credits, with the words against a black background, in the first twenty seconds, the viewer and listener was greeted with two F words. I knew immediately that the strong language would be plentiful.

The plot involves Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones) investigating how his son Mike was murdered shortly after arriving back to his military base from Iraq. His remains are found in a field, cut up, and it isn’t pretty seeing it on the big screen. With the help of police detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron) Deerfield begins to find some clues which, when added together, point to a cover-up.

Interestingly enough, the title “In the Valley of Elah” refers to the Biblical story found in 1 Samuel chapter 17 and verse two, and it refers to the valley of Elah, a valley which separated the Israelites from the Philistines. Deerfield tells the story to Sanders’ son David of David facing the giant Goliath, to encourage him to always face his fears and to meet his monsters head on. Jones and Theron are in fine form but the graphic scenes and strong language, along with nudity, prevent us from awarding our Dove Seal to this picture.

Content Description

Faith: None
Integrity: None
Sex: Strippers at a club and one pushes her breasts into a man's face.
Language: F-32; JC-2; Chr*st-1; J-1; G/OMG-2; H-10; A-6; Butt-1; S-14; SOB-2; Cr*p-1; D-2; P-2; A couple of references and slang is used regarding oral sex
Violence: The corpse from a murder is seen-a hand, burned skull, other body parts; one man mistakenly beats up another man he thinks committed a certain crime; a person is run over by a jeep in Iraq.
Drugs: Drinking in several scenes; smoking; the talk of using drugs and getting high.
Nudity: Topless women in several scenes; women wearing thongs; a couple of posters on the wall which shows nude women; a man commits suicide and his corpse is seen with rope marks on neck from hanging.
Other: Two guys flip off each other; a crude comment about a boss not wanting to see man have sex with his daughter; father and mother view son's remains in an emotional scene; a napkin advertising a strip joint with Slang for female genitalia on it.


Company: Warner Brothers
Writer: Paul Haggis and Mark Boal
Director: Paul Haggis
Producer: Laurence Becsey
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 121 min.
Reviewer: Edwin L. Carpenter