Monthly Archives: January 2008
Whether or not it wins Oscars, this certainly marks a new and resonant low in relations between Hollywood and the outgoing presidential incumbent. Written and directed by Paul Haggis – a winner for his multi-stranded 2004 drama Crash – it is a procedural thriller starring Tommy Lee Jones as Hank Deerfield, a retired military-police officer who is informed by the US army that the body of his son Mike, a serving soldier, has been recovered from scrubland around his base in Fort Rudd, New Mexico. Both Hank and civilian cop Detective Emily Sanders, played by Charlize Theron, suspect a military cover-up and determine to get at the truth, which may stem from an unspecified “incident” involving Mike’s unit during its final tour in Iraq, fragments of which appear to have been filmed on Mike’s mobile phone.
Thus far, almost every single mainstream Hollywood movie about politics or the war on terror, however notionally critical or satirical, has been defanged and auto-castrated at the outset by its own terror of being thought unpatriotic. Whatever its faults, that certainly doesn’t apply to Haggis’s film, which finishes with a boldly challenging and even blasphemous shot of the star-spangled banner. The title, incidentally, refers to the location for David’s contest with Goliath, which grumpy and uncomfortable Hank finds himself telling as a bedtime story to Emily’s little boy David. Elah, he says, is “a place in Palestine. D’you know where it is?” “No,” admits David. “Doesn’t matter,” shrugs Hank, wearily tolerant of modern ignorance. Perhaps the alternative term “Israel” would have been more familiar to the boy.