PictureIn the Valley of Elah comes to Blu-ray with a High Definition 1080p video presentation in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. It looks superb throughout, despite the fact that Haggis has eschewed all gloss and style to give it a totally natural, almost anaemic look. Detail is fantastic, seldom relying on edge enhancement to get the most out of the picture and having very few moments of softness and some always negligible grain. From the lines on Jones' face to the washed-out landscapes, it all comes across well, and extremely authentic - the only 'damaged' material coming in the form of the disjointed video footage that is pieced together from the mobile phone memory across the course of the movie. The colour scheme obviously submits to this naturalistic style, with no enhanced lighting here, the faces left to look real and not glossed up to usual Hollywood standards. These look like real people in real situations, the landscapes never glowing or clinically perfected, the colours rich and familiar but never brand new. Blacks are also solid, making for decent shadowing and night sequences, and the overall result is one that outshines the DVD incarnation.
SoundPulling out all the stops, Warner have decided to grace this disc with a Dolby TrueHD track to accompany the movie, which easily presents it in the best light. Dialogue is never less than clear and coherent, emanating predominantly from the fronts and centre channels, and never getting overshadowed by the rest of the mix. Effects are largely ambient, with detail on car engines and night insect life, or the bustle of a restaurant, but there are a few louder noises - although some of these are limited by the fact that they were a part of the recovered video footage from Iraq, so are intentionally given a 'damaged' feel. The score is quite quiet and broody, except where the tension is cranked up, and suitably gives the movie some decent atmosphere where necessary. Bass is present too, the LFE channel given something to do other than sit idly by, although this kind of slow-burning drama does not give rise to any particular room-shaking shenanigans. Overall it's a decent effort, superior presentation for a reasonable soundtrack.
VerdictIn the Valley of Elah may not be to everybody's tastes, but it is a decent old-school detective mystery, with complex, interesting characters and a smart, slow-burning narrative that pays your patients off in dividends. Tommy Lee Jones is simply superb in the lead role, chewing up everything and everybody around him with a dominant aura of experience and assuredness, and the movie is worth watching for him alone. On Blu-ray it comes with superior video and audio, and a couple of nice extras to round off the disc, and fans should not hesitate in picking this up for your collection. Newcomers are unlikely to be disappointed, but should definitely give it a rental first to see if it works for you.
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