In the Valley of Elah
Tommy Lee Jones is a major Oscar contender in this devastating film about the effects of the Iraq war on soldiers and their families. Jones plays the father of a soldier who has gone missing after his return from the war. When authorities won’t help, Jones takes matters into his own hands and conducts an investigation. He slowly begins to find out that his son had many problems, as did the soldiers he spent time with on his base. Jones has always been a master of quiet pain, but he takes it to a new level here, and just about every second he spends on his screen is emotionally powerful stuff. Susan Sarandon has a couple of the best scenes she’s had in years as Jones’ wife, lamenting the loss of two sons to the war. This is directed by Paul Haggis, who did the Oscar-winning Crash, and his second effort is actually a better film. It looks like Haggis and the Coen brothers raided each other’s casting closets because the upcoming Coen film No Country for Old Men shares a good chunk of the Elah cast.