What a heart breaking movie! On the surface, this movie is about a father, a former Army man, looking for his Army son who disappeared shortly after returning from Iraq. His remains indicate he was stabbed, dismembered, and burned, which lead us through a laundry list of possible scenarios and perpetrators. But the movie is also about the trauma of war on "warriors" and their survivors.
While the plotline is compelling, what really sucked me in was the character development and the relationships between the characters. There is Hank Deerfield (played by Tommy Lee Jones), a distrustful veteran who starts the movie proud of his country and proud of his sons. There is his wife Joan; Susan Sarandon has about a dozen lines in this movie but they are all perfectly rendered and bursting with backstory. And there is Det. Emily Sanders, a single mother who knows how to play with the big boys even though they don't want her to play.
The Valley of Elah is where David met and slew Goliath. It is also where we face our fears and learn to accept the truth, about our loved ones and ourselves, even when that truth is hard to bear.