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In the Valley of Elah (2007)

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A retired military investigator works with a police detective to uncover the truth behind his son's disappearance following his return from a tour of duty in Iraq.


Paul Haggis


Paul Haggis (screenplay), Mark Boal (story) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 18 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Tommy Lee Jones ... Hank Deerfield
Charlize Theron ... Det. Emily Sanders
Jason Patric ... Lt. Kirklander
Susan Sarandon ... Joan Deerfield
James Franco ... Sgt. Dan Carnelli
Barry Corbin ... Arnold Bickman
Josh Brolin ... Chief Buchwald
Frances Fisher ... Evie
Wes Chatham ... Corporal Steve Penning
Jake McLaughlin ... Spc. Gordon Bonner
Mehcad Brooks ... Spc. Ennis Long
Jonathan Tucker ... Mike Deerfield
Wayne Duvall ... Detective Nugent
Roman Arabia ... Private Robert Ortiez (as Victor Wolf)
Brent Briscoe ... Detective Hodge


In Monroe, Tennessee, Hank Deerfield, an aging warrior, gets a call that his son, just back from 18 months' fighting in Iraq, is missing from his base. Hank drives to Fort Rudd, New Mexico, to search. Within a day, the charred and dismembered body of his son is found on the outskirts of town. Deerfield pushes himself into the investigation, marked by jurisdictional antagonism between the Army and local police. Working mostly with a new detective, Emily Sanders, Hank seems to close in on what happened. Major smuggling? A drug deal gone awry? Credit card slips, some photographs, and video clips from Iraq may hold the key. If Hank gets to the truth, what will it tell him? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Sometimes The Truth Is Best Left Buried See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violent and disturbing content, language and some sexuality/nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

28 September 2007 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Death and Dishonor See more »

Filming Locations:

USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$133,557, 16 September 2007, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$6,777,741, 21 February 2008

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$29,527,293, 29 March 2009
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Several of the actors who played soldiers, including Wes Chatham (Corporal Steve Penning), Jake McLaughlin (Specialist Gordon Bonner), and Sean Huze (Captain Jim Osher), had actually served in the Iraq War themselves. See more »


In the scene where Hank Deerfield is trying to access his son's financial records via his laptop, he is talking to his wife on the phone. When the camera is on him, he is holding the handset to his ear but when the camera is on the laptop, the phone is visible to the right of the laptop and the handset is on-hook. The logo of a dial-up ISP is displayed on the laptop as it's downloading e-mail. If the laptop is connected to the ISP, he couldn't be using the phone line to make a voice call. See more »


[first lines]
Spc. Gordon Bonner: What are you doing? Get back in the fucking vehicle man! Mike, get back in the fucking vehicle. Let's go, Mike, now!
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Crazy Credits

Jason Patric does not appear at all in the end credits. Since he plays a pivotal role in the film and is seen in many of the scenes, it seems odd that he is uncredited for this role in this film. See more »


Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #25.14 (2008) See more »


Till I Get It Right
Written by Larry Henley and Red Lane
Performed by Tammy Wynette
Courtesy of Epic Records
By Arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

What war can do to young men
5 February 2017 | by WuchakkSee all my reviews

Released in 2007 and directed & written by Paul Haggis, "In the Valley of Elah" is a crime drama/mystery inspired by the real-life case of Richard T. Davis. The story revolves around an elderly Tennessee couple (Tommy Lee Jones & Susan Sarandon) who get word that their son has gone missing from his base in New Mexico shortly after his return from Iraq. A retired military investigator, Hank Deerfield (Jones) goes to the base to find out the awful truth. Charlize Theron plays the civilian detective near the base who tries to help Hank while Jason Patric plays the Army counterpart. Josh Brolin is on hand as the town police chief.

This is a slow-burn mystery highlighted by great acting by the principles, especially Jones, and a thoroughly realistic story, which isn't surprising seeing as how it's based on true events. Speaking of which, I was surprised to find out that the basic details of the story are all accurate. The actual events took place in the Fort Benning area of Georgia rather than the fictitious Fort Rudd, NM.

The movie's not anti-Iraq War, but rather anti-PTSD; it merely reveals the awful truth about war in general: When we send our young men off to far-off lands where brutal warfare is normal they can bring that desensitized mentality back with them where the barbaric behavior that might be acceptable in war is anything but normal or conducive to a successful life, to say the least. Add the idiocy of alcohol abuse to the mix of PTSD and the results almost certainly WON'T be good.

The title refers to the valley where David, as a teen, fought and defeated the utterly intimidating Goliath from 1 Samuel 17.

ADDITIONAL ACTORS: James Franco, Wes Chatham, Jake McLaughlin, Mehcad Brooks and Roman Arabia play soldiers who knew Deerfield's son while Frances Fisher has a curious cameo (you'll know what I mean).

The film runs 121 minutes and was shot in Whiteville, Tennessee, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, with Morocco substituting for Iraq.


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