I scroll through the lists of movies that Amazon Prime makes available to me and go, "Formulaic, formulaic, formulaic..."
After about half an hour I settle for In the Valley of Elah because I recently heard someone say it was one of the few good movies about George Bush's wars and because I like Tommy Lee Jones.
The central role was written for Clint Eastwood- and you can see how it was tailored to his persona. Eastwood is a great film star and Jones is a great actor and I'm not sure I'd have bothered with the movie if Eastwood hadn't been otherwise engaged. Put it this way, I'd rather watch Jones play Eastwood than Eastwood play Eastwood. Jones gives us everything Eastwood would have done plus something more. The Eastwood persona is excessively dry- and Jones hydrates it.
Susan Sarandon is underused. But then so are a number of other name actors. I'm guessing they are mates of Paul Haggis and took bit parts to help him out.
Charlize Theron is miscast- or rather the role is mis-written. Maybe both. I simply don't believe in this tough, wise-cracking Texas police lieutenant who looks like a movie star. They should have cast someone who doesn't look like a movie star- someone who stands in the same relation to movie stardom that Jones does.
The movie is based on a real story. It's swings between clunkyness and subtlety, answers some of the questions it raises and leaves others hanging. Soldiering fucks people up- but who are we to begin with that we are so easily undermined and perverted and turned into monsters? It left me feeling uncomfortable....