IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH is a well-wrtten, well-acted, well-made, and completely wrong-headed film that speaks volumes about the actors, filmmakers, and Hollywood executives' left-wing and anti-American world view. Out of their own mouths, so to speak.
Tommy Lee Jones plays Hank, a retired military investigator working with small town detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron) to first find, then uncover the reason for the death of Hank's son Mike (Jonathan Tucker), a recent returnee from the Iraq war. They ultimately discover that Mike was murdered during a night on the town which included visiting a strip club, fighting in the parking lot, illegal drug use, and having sex with a hooker . . . you know, just a typical Saturday night for our enlisted men. The climactic reveal is that Mike was senselessly killed by one of his buddies, a combat comrade in Iraq, for no apparent reason. Indeed, said the perpetrator: "It could have easily been Mike killing me."
No wonder the $23 million film made less than $7 million in the U.S.
I have no problem with the film strictly as film. It is perfectly acceptable fare: a murder mystery. And I have no trouble with the military setting. People do terrible things everywhere. But why In the Valley of Elah was one of the first (and few) Hollywood films to be made about the Iraq war is inexplicable. Surely, no one on the Left is asserting that more than a minscule proportion of our soldiers are murderous sociopaths. No, what they're really saying is that war, especially war the way America fights it, turns decent young men like Mike into sociopaths; in other words, we're creating a whole generation of brutal murderers.
This is the "Gitmo creates terrorists" argument, for which, statistically, there is absolutely no evidence. But lack of evidence never deters a true believer. In fact, lack of evidence gives rise to a leap of faith, which is the staple of under-informed, emotionally-oriented people. "I care! Isn't that enough?" they seem to shout when contrary facts arise.
No, it isn't enough. Accuracy would also be nice. And lest anyone reject my assertion that this film is anti-American, how else do you explain the final shot, where Hank raises a weathered American flag upside down, a universal sign of distress. With this image, the filmmakers are saying America is in trouble because of the way we fight wars; we are destroying the young men and women in our military. This is also an age-old Leftist canard: soldiers are victims. (Ignore the fact that our military is 100% voluntary.) In one scene (I love how filmmakers reveal their own motivation as well as their characters'), Hank's wife Joan (uber-Leftie Susan Sarandon), chides him for his military background, saying their son Mike joined up because he was raised in Hank's home; he literally had no choice. So not only are soldiers victims, they were brainwashed into being such.
To recap, this is Hollywood's view of the military and America's foreign policy: Evil engagements abroad (always for ultimately nefarious reasons, e.g. "blood for oil!"); CYA coverups by the military (the liaison, Lt. Kirklander (Jason Patric) is an unlikeable, insensitive company man); immoral behavior by our troops (the inciting incident in the film, which drove Mike "crazy" was his hitting a child on an Iraqi street with his Hummer, because there were standing "orders" to never stop a convoy for a pedestrian because that usually set them up for an ambush (sounds like a good policy to me), yet Mike never swerved or hit the horn; he just roared straight ahead, killing the child); illegal drug use, drunken fighting, consorting with hookers and murder being de rigeur behavior of soldiers on leave; yet these same soldiers are credulous children, victims of over-zealous, gung-ho parents and the corrupt militaristic American culture, which put them in the position where they have no choice: they simply must become sociopaths.
If this is the sort of film Hollywood makes to mark the Iraqi war (a war which, by the way, has been, for all intents and purposes, soundly won), then the upside-down flag is indeed apropos. But instead of the local VFW post, it should be flown over the Kodak Theater where they hold the Academy Awards.