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"IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH"
(2007) (Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Moderate Extreme Extreme Moderate Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None None Minor Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Extreme Mild Extreme Heavy *Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A retired military MP tries to find out what happened to his son while on leave from the war in Iraq.
PLOT:
It's 2004 and retired military MP Hank Deerfield (TOMMY LEE JONES) receives a phone call that his son, Mike (JONATHAN TUCKER), has gone AWOL from Fort Rudd while on leave from the Iraq War. Leaving his wife, Joan (SUSAN SARANDON), at home, Hank drives to New Mexico, determined to find his boy and return him to his unit before he gets into any more trouble.

With limited assistance from Lt. Kirklander (JASON PATRIC), Hank tries to find any sort of clue that might help him, and he finds that in his son's cell phone. Yet, the video on it taken in Iraq is mostly garbled, so while a local technician tries to salvage what he can and send it to Hank piecemeal, the former military man keeps digging.

He runs into resistance, though, from local cop Det. Emily Sanders (CHARLIZE THERON) who has her own issues in the form of constantly being belittled by her male comrades simply due to her gender, something her superior, Chief Buchwald (JOSH BROLIN) doesn't realize or simply overlooks.

With no missing person authority since this is a military matter, she tells Hank she can't help. That is, until a body is found in disputed civilian vs. military jurisdiction. Identified as Mike, that discovery creates an unlikely partnership between Hank and Emily.

As they interview those in Mike's platoon -- Specialist Ennis Long (MEHCAD BROOKS), Specialist Gordon Bonner (JAKE MCLAUGHLIN), Corporal Steve Penning (WES CHATHAM) and Private Robert Ortiez (VICTOR WOLF) -- they must overcome various obstacles as they try to find out what happened to the young soldier and why.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Unless they're fans of someone in the cast and/or the writer/director (who also made "Crash"), only the oldest of teens seem like they might be interested.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For violent and disturbing content, language and some sexuality/nudity.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • TOMMY LEE JONES plays a retired military MP who drives across the country, determined to locate his missing son and then find out why he was killed. Sad but resilient, he won't give up, and he drinks and briefly smokes.
  • CHARLIZE THERON plays a local cop who ends up assisting Hank, all as she must deal with sexism from her male coworkers. She uses strong profanity in response to the same directed at her.
  • JASON PATRIC plays a military officer at the fort who assists Hank and Emily in a limited and reluctant way.
  • SUSAN SARANDON plays Hank's wife who's left at home with her thoughts and worries, and blames Hank for their sons' military-based deaths.
  • MEHCAD BROOKS, JAKE MCLAUGHLIN, WES CHATHAM and VICTOR WOLF play men in Mike's platoon who know what happened to him both in Iraq and then back stateside, but are reluctant to share that information with Hank or Emily.
  • JOSH BROLIN plays the police chief who isn't aware of and/or doesn't do anything about the sexist remarks Emily receives from her male coworkers.
  • JONATHAN TUCKER plays Hank's son, seen in flashback while on military duty in Iraq. He uses strong profanity, and was supposedly involved with drugs.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a quick look at the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity consists of at least 32 "f" words, while other expletives and colorful phrases are also uttered. Sexually related dialogue (some of it explicit) is present, as is the sight of various topless dancers in just small thong bottoms. Male bare butts are also seen in a shower.

    Violence includes one character striking another, and video that implies a military vehicle driving over a child, while we see the aftermath of deadly violence that occurred before the story begins or off-camera (including murder and war-related atrocities). Some of those images (including that of burned bodies and body parts, and the body of a man who's hanged himself) and other moments might be unsettling for some viewers.

    Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes, while tense family material includes the aftermath of parents learning of their son's death, and a husband killing his wife. Various thematic elements regarding that and other material are also present. Characters drink and/or smoke, and there's talk of drug use, but no views of anyone actually partaking in that behavior.

    If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

    For those concerned with bright flashes of light on the screen, there's some of that from flashing police lights.

    For those prone to visually induced motion sickness, most of the cell phone video from Iraq is bouncy and/or shows a lot of camera movement.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Miscellaneous people drink in a strip club.
  • There's talk that a previous murder was drug-related, and Hank is told that a pot pipe and such was found under Mike's mattress. There's also talk of heroin smuggling involving soldiers.
  • Hank has a beer in a bar where others drink.
  • Hank asks a soldier if he wants to get some coffee, and when that man declines, Hank asks about a drink. We then see them drink shots of liquor in Hank's truck, where the soldier says that Mike was doing drugs, but not more than anyone else.
  • Some soldiers talk of being wasted ("f*cked up"), and that Mike wanted to buy more "meth."
  • There's talk of Ortiez and drugs.
  • Hank drinks with Ortiez.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • We see a photo of dead bodies on the ground (from a distance, so no details can be seen).
  • Some cops talk of body parts being found, and thus they and Emily go out to investigate. There, at night, we see various partially decomposed and animal-damaged human remains, including a severed hand.
  • Hank accidentally nicks his neck while shaving, resulting in a little blood there and then a drop of blood later from that same small wound.
  • Hank is told that it's believed his son's remains were found. He then wants to see them and thus we see a burned and severed head, and later photos of the remains, including a severed foot (we hear there were 42 stab wounds in all).
  • We see additional photos of the burned and decomposed body parts.
  • On low quality video from Mike's cell phone, we hear gunfire and then see various burned bodies.
  • A miscellaneous slaughterhouse worker has work-related blood on his apron and face in the police station.
  • Emily looks at an Internet news site and sees a photo of headless bodies as well as severed heads.
  • On low quality video from Mike's cell phone, we see night footage that shows several burned bodies in a car.
  • Emily has a bloody nose after Hank knocks her aside, and later has black eyes from the same. A suspect Hank beat has blood on his face as well.
  • We see the partially discolored body of a soldier who's recently hung himself, and there's a large and raised noose mark around his neck (we also note that his feet are discolored).
  • We see a dead woman's body in the now drained bathtub where her husband killed her (not seen, but we do see some discolored skin on her).
  • Ortiez complains that in Iraq, there wasn't any toilet paper and thus they had to use their hands.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Those responsible for Mike's death and covering it up obviously have bad attitudes.
  • Despite knowing he's not supposed to remove anything from his son's room, Hank takes his cell phone and secretly pockets it.
  • About Arabs, one soldier refers to them as "Little Ali Babas."
  • A woman complains to Emily about her husband drowning the family dog in front of their young son (the latter is not seen). Various male cops laugh at Emily taking this testimony and make various barking sounds, etc. to belittle her.
  • The cops and military don't get along and clash over who has jurisdiction over the murder case.
  • Various male cops continue to give Emily a hard time, belittling her work and abilities.
  • Some male cops accuse Emily of using her sexuality to get her job, with one adding that if two others "Could have f*cked their way into the job." She doesn't back down, and makes a sarcastic comment that she did "f*ck my way into this position."
  • One soldier testifies that he lied in his earlier testimony.
  • After beating a Hispanic suspect, Hank yells out to him, "Come back here you wetback pr*ck."
  • On low quality video from Mike's cell phone, we see some soldiers torturing another man (who screams as others laugh). We then hear testimony of Mike sticking his hand into the tortured man's wound to cause him more pain.
  • A soldier refers to an Iraqi as a "Hajji."
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" and/or "Blood/Gore" may be unsettling or suspenseful to younger viewers and/or those with low tolerance levels for such material.
  • There's panic on video recorded by Mike's cell phone in Iraq, but the quality is poor and it's hard to tell what's happening.
  • Cops raid a soldier's house with handguns and shotguns at the ready. The suspect inside then flees, followed by a foot and car chase that ends with Hank driving up and smacking the fleeing guy with his truck door. Hank then gets out and repeatedly hits the suspect with a stick (after that man pulls a switchblade on him) and knocks Emily aside (bloodying her nose) before being pulled off by others.
  • On low quality video from Mike's cell phone, we see some soldiers torturing another man (who screams as others laugh). We then hear testimony of Mike sticking his hand into the tortured man's wound to cause him more pain.
  • Ortiez talks of their vehicle driving over a child in Iraq when the boy darted out in front of them (and that they were previously told never to stop for fear of bombs being used in such ways). We then see a flashback of that occurring, but the impact is only "seen" from inside the military vehicle as it bounces over the boy.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handguns/Shotguns/Switchblade: Carried or used to threaten others. See "Violence" for details.
  • Although not seen, we hear that a murder victim was stabbed 42 times.
  • We see various guns in a gun store.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Get back in the f*cking car," "You little f*cker," "F*ck you, lady," "F*cking around," "Oh f*ck," "Everything there is f*cked up," "F*ck if I know," "F*cked up" (high), "F*ck you, man," "It's f*cked up," "A f*cking deal," "I'm f*cking pissed off," "How f*cked is that?" "No f*cking idea," "No sh*t," "It looks like you don't give a sh*t," "Sh*t-hole," "Oh sh*t," "I'm just not in the mood to give a sh*t," "Luckily for me, that means sh*t," "Sh*t-heads," "Come back here you wetback pr*ck," "I'd sure as hell know it," "No prayer in hell," "Must of been one hell of a woman," "Little Ali Babas," "I'll be a son of a bitch," "How in the hell are you?" "What the hell does that mean?" "Shut up," "A bunch of boobs," "That's a damn shame," "Pissed," "Macho warrior crap," "Kiss my ass," "You're damn lucky," "Freezing your ass off," "You son of a bitch" and "Pissy."
  • A miscellaneous person has tattoos.
  • A soldier gives "the finger" on video.
  • A cop and a military official give each other "the finger."
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • A song has the lyric (of what sounded like), "Get up on the floor, or get down on the floor, if you want some more."
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 32 "f" words (2 used sexually), 13 "s" words, 1 slang term using male genitals ("pr*ck"), 1 using female ones ("p*ssy" - written as a sign), 10 hells, 6 asses (3 used with "hole"), 3 S.O.B.s, 2 damns, 1 crap, 2 each of "Christ" and "Jesus" and 1 use of "Jesus Christ."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We see several male soldiers' bare butts in passing in a shower.
  • We see a shirtless male soldier.
  • About Mike supposedly being AWOL, one soldier jokes that it "must be one hell of a woman."
  • In a club, we see many topless women (some pole dancers) who are in thong bottoms (thus, bare breasts and mostly bare bottoms are seen).
  • A song has the lyric (of what sounded like), "Get up on the floor, or get down on the floor, if you want some more."
  • A topless waitress briefly talks with Hank in a bar (and he calls her ma'am, never looking anywhere but her eyes).
  • A miscellaneous slaughterhouse worker states something about his boss not wanting him "humping" that man's daughter.
  • Some male cops accuse Emily of using her sexuality to get her job, with one adding that if two others "Could have f*cked their way into the job." She doesn't back down, and makes a sarcastic comment that she did "f*ck my way into this position."
  • Emily's deadbeat husband is mentioned, but she then says (about her son), "It's not like he's the boy's father" (it isn't clear if that's meant sexually, or just in terms of being a dad).
  • A bar has the name (seen on a sign) "P*ssies." In it, and in the background a shot, we see a topless pole dancer doing her thing. Out in the lobby, we see what look like sex dolls, as well as male mannequins depicting revealing attire (some of it appearing to be S&M and/or gay related).
  • A soldier admits that a hooker "blew" him and three others (and there's talk of a "blow job").
  • Posters on a soldier's wall show a bare-breasted woman and part of another's bare butt.
  • SMOKING
  • Hank and Penning each smoke at least once, a cop smokes, and some miscellaneous smoking occurs.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Hank learns his son is AWOL and thus sets out to find him.
  • A woman complains to Emily about her husband drowning the family dog in front of their young son (the latter is not seen).
  • We hear that Hank had one son who died 10 years ago in the military.
  • Hank is told that it's believed his son's remains were found. He then wants to see them and thus we see a burned and severed head, and later photos of the remains, including a severed foot (we hear there were 42 stab wounds in all).
  • Hank looks pained when some store owners say they smelled what seemed like burned barbeque meat (when it was really Mike's body burning, although they didn't know that).
  • Joan is devastated on the phone when Hank informs her of their son's death. They argue (due to that) and she even blames that on Hank, asking why he couldn't leave her one son (since the other also died in the military).
  • Emily's deadbeat husband is mentioned, but she then says (about her son), "It's not like he's the boy's father" (it isn't clear if that's meant sexually, or just in terms of being a dad).
  • Joan arrives and wants to see her son's remains. She does so through a window and reacts in subdued shock, saying that it must be cold in there as it looks that way. She then asks to go inside, but is refused.
  • We see a dead woman's body in the now drained bathtub where her husband killed her (not seen, but we do see some discolored skin on her).
  • We see the flag-draped coffin holding Hank's son (he sees it as well).
  • A soldier admits to killing Mike with a knife, and Hank is there to hear that testimony.
  • Mike sees a new soldier replacing his dead son in the barracks.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The effect of war on those who return from it and try to live a civilized life.
  • Various male cops continue to give Emily a hard time, belittling her work and abilities. That includes them accusing her of using her sexuality to get her job, with one adding that if two others "Could have f*cked their way into the job." She doesn't back down, and makes a sarcastic comment that she did "f*ck my way into this position."
  • A soldier's comment that they shouldn't send heroes to places like Iraq, but should instead nuke the place and watch it turn back to dust.
  • The David and Goliath story from where the film gets its title.
  • Emily commenting on how it's different in Iraq and then when soldiers are back home (in terms of reacting to violence, threats, and such).
  • A soldier's defense of previous torture being that it was a means of coping, and that they all do stupid things.
  • Ortiez complains that in Iraq, there wasn't any toilet paper and thus they had to use their hands.
  • Ortiez saying that when he was in Iraq, he couldn't wait to come home, but now that he is, he wants to go back to Iraq.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Much of what's listed below is the visual aftermath of unseen or off-screen violence.
  • Although not seen, a soldier is murdered and then his body is set on fire. However, we do see the remains that include a burned and severed head, and later photos of the remains, including a severed foot (we hear there were 42 stab wounds in all).
  • On low quality video from Mike's cell phone, we hear gunfire and then see various burned bodies.
  • Emily looks at an Internet news site and sees a photo of headless bodies as well as severed heads.
  • On low quality video from Mike's cell phone, we see night footage that shows several burned bodies in a car.
  • Cops raid a soldier's house with handguns and shotguns at the ready. The suspect inside then flees, followed by a foot and car chase that ends with Hank driving up and smacking the fleeing guy with his truck door. Hank then gets out and repeatedly hits the suspect with a stick (after that man pulls a switchblade on him) and knocks Emily aside (bloodying her nose) before being pulled off by others.
  • We see the partially discolored body of a soldier who's recently hung himself, and there's a large and raised noose mark around his neck (we also note that his feet are discolored).
  • We see a dead woman's body in the now drained bathtub where her husband killed her (not seen, but we do see some discolored skin on her).
  • On low quality video from Mike's cell phone, we see some soldiers torturing another man (who screams as others laugh). We then hear testimony of Mike sticking his hand into the tortured man's wound to cause him more pain.
  • Ortiez talks of their vehicle driving over a child in Iraq when the boy darted out in front of them (and that they were previously told never to stop for fear of bombs being used in such ways). We then see a flashback of that occurring, but the impact is only "seen" from inside the military vehicle as it bounces over the boy.



  • Reviewed August 31, 2007 / Posted September 28, 2007

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