I watched IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH this morning.

Tommy Lee Jones plays Hank Deerfield, a retired Military police sergeant who gets a call early one morning telling him his son, Mike, is AWOL. “My son is in Iraq,” is his answer. That’s when he finds out his son has been back four days and has now dropped out of sight. No calls to him or his mother, played by Susan Sarandon.

Knowing something is wrong, Deerfield goes looking for Mike. He gets stonewalled everywhere he goes. The police won’t handle it because his son is military. Everyone he knew when he was a military investigator has retired, so he gets the usual platitudes from the army but no help.

His buddies last saw him on Saturday before he left the base.

Then a body is found in a field owned by the army. Stabbed multiple times, dismembered, burned, the part scattered over the field, it’s identified as Mike Deerfield only by partial fingerprints.  Since it’s on military land, they assume control of the investigation(the police are only to happy to oblige), Military investigators assume it’s a drug deal gone bad. A heroin pipe is found under Mike’s mattress on the base and dismemberment is a favorite of the Mexican gangs.

Deerfield is not satisfied and, with the help of Detective Emily Sanders, played by Charlize Theron, proves his son was murdered off the property and dragged onto the field for dismemberment and burning. That puts it reluctantly back into police hands.

Deerfield keeps doggedly pursuing clues and dead ends until he finds out the real story. I won’t say anymore, not wishing to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet.

I liked this movie. It’s based on a true story and Jones received an academy award nomination for the role of Hank Deerfield. To the best of my recollection, the only Tommy Lee Jones role I didn’t like was Two-Face in that abominable Batman and Robin.