We watched In the Valley of Elah last night (rented from iTunes). I was pleasantly surprised to learn it was a murder mystery (sort of). Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon all gave powerful performances.
For me the story was about how war can change the people we send to fight it. And I was reminded of one of Tommy Lee Jones’ earlier movies, Rolling Thunder (1977).
It was a so-so movie starring William Devane but Jones owned every scene he was in. He played Cpl. Johnny Vohden, a soldier who had served under Devane’s character in Viet Nam. Johnny is back, but he’s not “back.”
So, when Devane asks him to go down to Mexico to avenge Devane’s murdered family, Tommy Lee gets up, walks into his bedroom, picks up a little gym bag and walks out the door. See the movie.
In In the Valley of Elah, Jones’ son, who is serving in Iraq, is that same burned out soldier with the thousand-yard stare.
TLJ was great in No Country for Old Men, but I thought his performance in Valley of Elah was even better.