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.