In the Valley of Elah

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(2007) ★★★★★

BBC1: Sunday 30 August, 11.30pm

Retired military police officer Tommy Lee Jones heads for Fort Rudd in New Mexico when his son Jonathan Tucker, just back from Iraq, is posted Awol. Only local cop Charlize Theron seems to share his concern at the army’s stonewalling. The subject of this tough, heart-breaking drama is as forbidding as the unwieldy title (an allusion to David and Goliath). Anchored by a typically gruff, utterly compelling and subtly nuanced performance by Jones, Paul Haggis’ powerful film uses a real-life case to highlight the dreadful, melancholy plight of America’s modern army, and its bankrupt leadership. Like Robert Stone’s tough Vietnam drama Dog Soldiers 30 years ago, Elah is clear about the poison coming home to the heartland. With the impeccable Jones in the lead, its New Mexico setting superbly photographed by the Coen brothers’ regular cameraman Roger Deakins, and brief turns from Josh Brolin (as a complacent sheriff) and Barry Corbin (as a former law officer), Elah can also be seen as a grim continuation of No Country for Old Men, a quarter of a century on. Keep quiet and move along, no lessons to be learned here.

Certificate: 15

Duration: 121min

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Other Showings Time & Date
BBC1 Scotland Monday, 31 August at 12:25AM