Friday, November 9, 2007

Mr. Jones Gets All Turned Around

In the Valley of Elah writer turned director Paul Haggis sticks with the same contemporary mode of realistic grimness with his follow-up to the award-winning Crash, in this taut exploration of the cost of war. Ostensibly a military mystery tale, the movie centers around the unlikely hook-up of female detective Charlize Theron and former Army man Tommy Lee Jones as they search for answers surrounding Jones’ AWOL son (Jonathan Tucker), one week returned from action in Iraq. Writer/director Haggis avoids the flashbacks route by utilizing the device of periodically retrieving footage from a scrambled phone camera while the film continually hones in on the faces of the secondary characters like the heartbroken mom (Susan Sarandon), the police boss man (Josh Brolin), the Army brass (Jason Patric) and the missing boys fellow dog soldiers (Wes Chatham, Victor Wolf, Mehcad Brooks, and Jake McLaughlin). Of course, the face the dominates all is that of Jones, turning in a momentous performance, etching the character of a silent, American man of action, torn up inside with conflicting concepts of patriotism, character, and duty, a man borne of a military culture of a certain time and place forced to examine what that has mutated into. The final result is decidedly uneven, but Jones’ acting turn alone demands a viewing—if Haggis was bold enough to fuse the camera to Jones throughout this one might have been a masterwork.


Charles R. Drago said...

Be on the lookout for TLJ in the role of Detective Dave Robicheux in the upcoming "In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead."

There never has been a more literate, genre-transcending, just plain brilliant procedural series than James Lee Burke's Robicheux novels. I've been hooked for years, beginning with "Dixie City Jam" when it was published, then heading back to "The Neon Rain," where it all began, and traveling chronologically to the current "The Tin Roof Blowdown."

Burke has had his weak moments, at times seemingly writing the same book two or three times in a row while bothering only to change characters' names.

But then he regains his stride.

Alec Baldwin portrayed Robicheux in a previous film adaptation, but he was terribly miscast.

TLJ, I'm betting, will be spot-on.

Scotty D said...

I love the Robicheux books myself, and cringed at Alec Baldwin's shot at the character (the movie was godawful also).Even though burke often fishes the same swamps (as do a lot of those who write detective and hardboild fiction) there is no one as darkly poetic as him working within the genre--most of the times his instalments manage to cast a real spell.