In the Valley of Elah
Amy Austin: “It ruled.”
Inasmuch as a movie about topics as somber as war and death can "rule", this one did (kind of like saying that Schindler's List "ruled"). But rule it does, as it takes a serious look at the heavy price of war that is paid by *everyone*... all without a single bullet fired or bomb dropped anywhere -- in fact, with barely a cumulative moment of combat to be seen in the whole length of the film. And even more poetically, it does so with nary a political stance or moral indictment, but with sheer patriotism and humanity. Admittedly, I was surprised to see Susan Sarandon playing wife to Tommy Lee Jones in a film about war -- I suppose it should have been some kind of tip-off... but her supporting role was introduced with such fluid subtlety that, "Was that Susan Saradon?" only entered my head as an afterthought to her very brief first scene. And, as it turns out, the marriage of these two actors unfolds into a perfect synthesis of the dichotomous study of human nature in wartime that follows, because there really is no glorification and no villification here -- no black or white -- just a disturbingly realistic portrayal of people coping in complex and confusing times and situations... including a few poignant micro-studies in gender and race/ethnicity issues along the way, assisted by the fine acting of Charlize Theron. I highly recommend it.