In the Valley of Elah (2007): Responsibility and Chaos

What is Film Noir? There as many answers as there are noir movies.

I consider a film for posting to FilmsNoir.Net only some time after a recent viewing. I want the film to return to my memory on its own terms, and when this happens, it is more often than not, a response to what I describe as the picture’s noir sensibility. This sensibility must have a redemptive focus for me to value a film, whether redemption is achieved or not. This is what the great films noir have in common: a profoundly and deeply human response to the chaos and random contingency at the edge of existence.

It is with this in mind that I am posting on the recent release: In The Valley of Elah (2007). On the surface it is a police procedural framed against US soldiers returning from the Iraq war. On a deeper level it is an exploration of contingencies and responsibility.

Three crimes: the heinous unnecessary invasion of Iraq, the brutal killing of a child by a US humvee on the streets of Baghdad, and the gruesome murder of a returning soldier on the outskirts of an American army town, bring chaos to the life of a father, who no longer understands his son or his country and its institutions. Everything including the American flag is upside-down.

This film is the true heritage of film noir, not banal and unredeemably violent films such as No Country For Old Men.

In The Valley of Elah (2007)

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