Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Postmodern Goliath

Does anyone else love Tommy Lee Jones, or is it just me? I realize he plays small variations on the stoic, well-leathered man with dry humor, but still. His role in No Country For Old Men was a hand-rolled fit, almost no one else would have brought the same feeling to the film. But in his latest, he goes more subtle and its exactly that damping of character that netted him the nomination for best actor in this film.

In The Valley of Elah

This is a hard one to watch at times since the storyline is brutal. A father learns that his Army son, stationed in Iraq but returning on leave, has gone AWOL. But he's AWOL for a reason, just not a good one. Jones steps in to help the investigation, only to get the run around by the Army and local police, both of whom are in a pissing match over case jurisdiction. As the investigation proceeds, Jones learns the son he handed over to the Army, he really didn't know. Systematically you watch Jones' heart break into atoms at the realization, stoically but with a subtle agony that makes you want to turn away.

I liked the way they brought in footage, apparently recovered from the son's cell phone, to explain in almost a separate storyline, what the son experienced in Iraq.I also liked the son's soldier friends who told their stories one by one, each of which lied for their own reason, each of which unearthed another ugliness about war and its effect on those involved, directly and otherwise. Jake Mc Laughlin was particularly memorable - and creepy.

Jake McLaughlin & TL Jones

Overall this was a great film, almost entirely carried by Jones but definitely propped up by good performances from Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon and Jake Mc Laughlin. The director (from Crash) also did a fantastic job at tweezing out the heartbreak and wreckage imposed by war without preaching. Even the Goliath reference from the film title (Elah is the valley where David whacked Goliath) resonated with storyline in that familiar overcoming-your-fears-and-slaying-your-demons kind of way.

What I didn't like was the upside down flag that was flown over the last scene. I understand an upside down flag means we are a country in distress, really I do. But after watching two hours of a family tossed about in the wake of the Iraq war, it seemed redundant and almost insulting.

In The Valley Of Elah

9.5 / 10

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Anonymous Jason said...

Sounds like a hard one to watch, but an important one.

You are right about TLJ. I liked him best in The Fugitive years ago.

10:24 PM

Blogger Jim said...

And timely too, Jason. Oh yeah, I kinda remember the Fugitive, great one!

6:10 AM

Blogger Michael said...

Jones is a very good actor. I think his most enjoyable role (that I've seen), was his deadpan straight man in Men in Black.

6:18 AM

Blogger Jim said...

Ah yes, Michael, MIB is another classic!

9:30 AM


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