Box art for In the Valley of Elah

In the Valley of Elah

drama, thrillers

"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...

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 16
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
5 out of 5
Positive messages
0 out of 5
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Intense, mature murder mystery tackles Iraq war.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this contemplative, slow-moving mystery/drama isn't for kids. Its focus on military culture and wartime trauma yields images of chaotic, violent combat footage (much of this is shown in choppy, handheld cell phone video that can be hard to see/interpret). The movie's central murder is discussed frequently, and morgue scenes show the victim's mother's grief, as well as a brief glimpse of the body itself (there's another quick shot of an additional victim's body later on). Strippers are bare-breasted, and characters discuss a female detective who slept with her boss. Strong language includes many uses of "f--k," plus other profanity ("s--t," "p---y," "ass," etc.), and some disparaging terms used to describe Mexican Americans.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about the impact of violent war imagery. Ask kids where they see disturbing images most -- on TV or the Internet -- and ask them how they deal with what they see. Families can also discuss what messages the movie is sending about war and the military. Is it the job of movies and TV shows to examine important social issues and current events? What other movies can you think of that have handled big topics in a similar way? How do the relationships within the movie affect its impact on you as a viewer? Is Hank a good father? Why or why not?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: In the Valley of Elah rises and falls on the strength of Tommy Lee Jones' performance, which is to say that it rises to great heights, indeed.

- Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic, Thursday, September 20, 2007

Rotten: Elah uses a slightly plodding police procedural format as an opening to a discussion about the effect the war is having on returning soldiers. It's a lot to ask of one movie.

- Bruce Newman, San Jose Mercury News, Thursday, September 20, 2007

Rotten: Haggis'] self-serious tone becomes wearisome, and he fails to explore how the military failed its men while clumsily laying a guilt trip at its feet.

- Bruce Westbrook, Houston Chronicle, Friday, September 21, 2007

Audience Reviews

3 stars


- brooklynspo, Sunday, July 27, 2008

4 stars

Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, James Franco, Jason Patric, Susan Sarandon, Josh Brolin Tommy Lee Jones in another great performance. The movie is about an retired officer of the army investigating the death of his son Tucker who went AWOL after coming back from Iraq. He gets help from a female detective who is played by Charlize Theron. There is a lot of covering up, and no one wants to tell the truth. The whole movie is a build up to the ending which will leave you feeling disgusted, sympathy for the convicted, and heartbroken for the dead boys family. The movie is disturbing, and shows us what it is like for the soldiers and their families when they have come back from war. Susan Sarandon, although not having that much screen time in this movie is amazing with just the little bit of screen time she was given. You can feel her grief. Those who are for the war may be left feeling indifferent about it after watching this film. It's definitely shows the downfall of going to war, and has you sympathizing for the soldiers and their families even more so now then before. Great movie and great performances.

- LWOODS04, Wednesday, December 2, 2009

1 star

Something to watch.....

- dukeakasmudge, Friday, October 23, 2009