>Movie Review: In the Valley of Elah

>About 70% of a human brain is water. The human brain has a consistency not unlike that of a firm jello. A recent Washington Post article cites research that ties concussions to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The question you may be thinking is: what does a jello-like brain and PTSD have to do with “In the Valley of Elah”?

Tommy Lee Jones portrays a father, Hank Deerfield, searching for his son, Mike, who has gone AWOL soon after his return from a tour of duty in Iraq. Jones’ character is also a former MP and knows the Army bureaucracy well enough to know that he has to push through it to get answers. Charlize Theron portrays a local police detective assisting him in his search.

**Spoilers Ho’***

We soon find out that Mike is dead, and not just dead, but butchered and barbequed. Rather than hoping his son is AWOL trying to work through the stress of battle, Hank finds himself at odds with the Army in trying to discover his son’s murderers.

What we learn throughout the course of the movie is that ordinary people forced to make extraordinary decisions can seem outwardly fine but have undergone serious emotional damage. I begin the discussion by introducing the brain material because we are only now beginning to realize the damage done to the brain by explosions and concussive-type damage. Soldiers subjected to concussive forces as a result of IED explosions, mortar attacks, of even firing their own weapons are at risk or may have already suffered some brain damage.

The damage to their brains will most likely go unrecognized and thusly undiagnosed. Then, the soldiers walk among us with undiagnosed brain injuries. Of course, not all are dangerous, but many are “wounded,” psychologically and perhaps even physiologically wounded. Couple this with the fact that these are young men and women whose brains are really still developing, and we have a serious medical condition that left untreated could affect not only the soldiers life for years to come but everyone they come into contact with.

The movie was very good, thought-provoking, and hints at the dangers of war that shadow everyone who has been involved in the military.

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