“In the Valley of Elah” is a crime-solving drama that focuses more on the drama than the action. Part of my unimpressed reception of the film could be due to the number of fast-paced thrillers that I have been watching lately. The investigative portions of the film are very interesting but the entire thing is so slow-paced that it seems like a lot of waiting for each little discovery. I realize that the theme of the film is post-traumatic stress disorder and not the investigation itself, but the lack of action really makes it tough to wait for the next thing to happen. The story is a complete downer with constant anti-war sentiments, so be ready for that when you start watching. Even the score is two hours of sad violin music. Tommy Lee Jones is okay in this purposely emotionless role but it doesn’t have the luster that we expect from an Oscar nominee. Charlize Theron has a few moments, though many of them become too drawn out as we’re waiting for the next thing to happen. Susan Sarandon, James Franco, and Josh Brolin are completely underutilized and I couldn’t really even figure out why they were in this film (unless they just wanted to be a part of the film’s political statement). The casting directors would have done better to save money and cast unknowns for the two minutes of screentime that each of these characters received. “In the Valley of Elah” is a decent drama with a few interesting crime twists, but the purposeful desensitized emotions of the characters cause it to plod along to its slow and dismal ending.
[Pictured: Neither Jones or Theron reach their potential, but you have to love the scenes where he does her job better than she does]