Oscar Movies: In the Valley of Elah–Tommy Lee Jones

Paul Haggis’s dramatic political thriller “In the Valley of Elah,” which stars Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon and Jason Patric, is scheduled to open September 14, after playing the Toronto Film Fest. It will be released in limited, platform mode, going wider on September 21.

“In the Valley of Elah” tells the story of a war veteran (Tommy Lee Jones), his wife (Susan Sarandon) and the search for their son, a soldier who recently returned from Iraq but has mysteriously gone missing, and the police detective (Charlize Theron) who helps in the investigation.

Following the success of “Crash,” which won the 2005 Best Picture Oscar, the there was no shortage of scripts for writer-director Paul Haggis to choose from for his next project. Nonetheless, he was up for a challenge, as he recalls a meeting with his agents: “I said to them, what I want is anything that you know will not be made.

Shortly thereafter, Haggis was sent a magazine article from Playboy magazine, “Death and Dishonor,” written by Mark Boal. “I was really moved by it,” says Haggis, “It’s a very tragic story and I said I really want to do this.”
Boal’s article details the murder of a young Army enlisted man just home from Iraq, who was stationed at Fort Bennington, Georgia, the investigation mounted by his father (splendidly played by Tommy Lee Jones) following his disappearance, and the toll of combat on three platoon mates accused of the murder.

“We’d been on the lookout for this kind of material for awhile,” concurs producer Laurence Becsey who has worked with Haggis for more than a decade. “Paul had an instant affinity to the subject matter. It’s a powerful tale. When you read the article, you realize it’s the platform to approach a subject that could resonate with everybody. What’s the right thing to do for justice What do we do to take care of ourselves What does everybody do to take care of the family”

In shopping the idea around, Haggis took it to his collaborator, Clint Eastwood, for whom he wrote the Oscar-winning drama, “Million Dollar Baby,” the two war films, “Flags of Our Father” and its companion piece, “Letters from Iwo Jima.” Eastwood in turn took the script to Warner. Recalls Haggis: “Clint championed this film for me and I really appreciate it. Back in 2003, it was a story that no one wanted to hear, so it would have been very difficult to make it without his support.”

Oscar-winner Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Hank Deerfield, the father of the murdered son, holds that “the story concerns itself with what war can do to people. The film indicates that blind, mindless patriotism is very dangerous.”
Charlie Theron, Oscar winner for “Monster,” who plays police detective Emily Sander, a struggling single mom, concurs: No matter how you feel about the war , or where your stance is politically, the one thing you can’t deny is that we’re sending young boys and girls out there, who experience a lot of trauma. To bring them home, throw them back into the society, and expect them to function as normal human beings is asking a lot of them. It’s a harsh reality, and we really haven’t been very honest about it.”


Paul Haggis directs from his original screenplay based on a story by Mark Boal and Haggis. This is Haggis’ directing follow-up to the Oscar-winning “Crash.” In addition to the Oscar-winning screenplay for “Crash,” Haggis’s recent writing credits include the award-winning “Million Dollar Baby,” for which he received an Academy Award-nomination for Best Screenplay, and current releases “The Last Kiss,” “Flags of Our Fathers,” “Casino Royale” and “Letters From Iwo Jima.”

The film is produced by Paul Haggis, Larry Becsey, Patrick Wachsberger, Steve Samuels and Darlene Caamano Loquet. A Summit Entertainment and Samuels Media presentation in association with Nala Films and Blackfriars Bridge.
Rating: This film is not yet rated.