Saturday, 26 January 2008

In the Valley of Elah Review

Haggis - a traditional dish made up of the offcuts of several different meats, boiled down to make one meal. Scottish myth has tricked many stupid people into believing its made from one furry creature that sounds like a bagpipe. Its not.
Paul Haggis - a director/screenwriter whose work resembles the offcuts of several more talented filmmakers, boiled down to make one point in a horrendously cheap way. Hollywood myth has tricked many stupid people into believing he isn't a cheap hack. He is.

The latest work to deal with Iraq has Tommy Lee Jones play Hank Deerfield a retired army officer investigating why his son has gone AWOL after returning from a tour of duty. Chalize Theron pops up to little effect in a cliche and underwritten role whose sole purpose seems to be to make Hank look great at his job. Once Hank starts searching for the truth he uncovers, not surprisingly, that y'know war isn't that fun and that people don't enjoy being in a country where nobody wants them. Surprise!

With Crash, Paul Haggis oversimplified the idea of racism to stating "Everyone is a big fat racist of Bernard Manning proportions" (except, of course, him cos he made a film about racism, so he can't be racist and besides he's got loads of black friends). In Last Kiss, he oversimplified the nature of relationships into women are shit and men are also a bit shit and relationships well they are definitely shit. Now In the Valley of Elah he's decided that war makes ALL people not cuddly and fun to be around.

The idea that every soldier that comes back from war turns from All American Hero to torturing for fun, child killing, mysogonistic, crack heads seems a little extreme even for a Guardian reading leftie as myself. No responsibilty whatsoever is placed on the soldiers for their horrific acts, its all because of the nature of war. I'm pretty sure after World War 2 (you remember that war that people HAD to go to because of conscription) our grandparents didn't return, one to a man, hating life in all its forms.

As for the appaling David and Goliath metaphor that the film takes its title from (almost as cheap a trick as the upside down flag) it seems to be saying that the American Military is the little man trying to stand up to the big bad world. This film actually asks for our pity for poor old America. With every television screen playing the face of Mr. W Bush all it does is remind us that they bloody elected the fool. Twice.

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