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  In the Valley of Elah

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Jason Patric, Susan Sarandon

Directed by: Paul Haggis

Produced by: Paul Haggis, Larry Becsey, Darlene Loquet, Steve Samuels, Patrick Wachsberger

Written by: Paul Haggis (screenplay & story), Mark Boal (story)

Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures


Dear Paul Haggis,


     Who do you think you are?


     Your latest film, In the Valley of Elah, displays such a deep-seeded hated for the American Military that it could be quite easily confused for a propaganda-film made by al-Qaeda as a means of recruiting anti-West terrorists. Through your deceptive screenwriting and direction, you depict United States soldiers—the very men who defend your right to sit around and make films all day—as being sub-human. You would like the audience to think that there is an inordinate amount of men and women serving our country that act like kill-happy, blood-thirsty dogs. You are so desperate to vocalize an anti-Iraq War “statement” that you are willing to take the easy way out by blaming these noble human beings for the United States’ governmental failures. Instead of delving into the complexities of the country’s Foreign Policy by directly criticizing the practices of the Bush Administration, an establishment that can withstand such unwarranted attacks, you see it necessary to rob the best and brightest American men and women of their dignity onscreen. Why, Mr. Haggis, must you pretend as though our military is comprised of killers and sadomasochists in your film?


     Not to mention, the way that you attack our soldiers in such a cowardly, self-righteous manner makes the action all the more offensive. That the first act of In the Valley of Elah pretends to respect the traditions and the strength of the American Armed Forces is a damn shame. What a cheap way of suggesting to unknowing viewers that the film understands the military, as if to make it seem okay for them to believe the mistaken notion presented that the organization is full of corrupt and sinful killers! Additionally, Mr. Haggis, your choice to establish protagonist Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones), whose Iraq-veteran son dies just outside of his home military base, as a man of nationalist values is disgraceful. It is absolutely disgusting that you would ever purport that this character, who even goes as far as to instruct an immigrant Hispanic janitor to hang the American Flag up backwards during the film’s final scene, is an admirable dissenter who loves America but despises the Iraq War and its players.


     It should be duly noted, Mr. Haggis, that I think you to be very talented man. Your screenplay for Million Dollar Baby is one of the best ever written, your more-thoughtful meditation on the consequences of war in Flags of Our Fathers is illuminating, and your direction Crash packs a punch despite its considerable flaws. But with great ability comes great responsibility. You must not continue to abuse your gift, as you clearly did in making In the Valley of Elah. Your work here allows passages of the movie to achieve a poetic style, but what good is poetry when it is defamatory and hateful? You bring out in Tommy Lee Jones what may be the best performance of his entire career, but the veteran actor’s efforts are rendered useless when one considers that they contribute to a message of resounding hypocrisy.


     I will not soon artistically forgive you for the mean-spirited and downright wrong attitude that your In the Valley of Elah exhibits toward the United States Military, Mr. Haggis. You should be ashamed of yourself for depicting the organization in the way that you do. But I still realize what a crafty and influential man you are in the World of Film, and must plead of you to reconsider your troubling thoughts regarding the American Troops fighting in Iraq. In the years to come, please fully realize the social power carried by the images and ideas captured by your camera.



Daniel S. Baldwin

Bucket Reviews


Review Published on: 10.11.2007

Screened on: 9.23.2007 at the Edwards San Marcos 18 in San Marcos, CA.


In the Valley of Elah is rated R and runs 121 minutes.

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