One too many hangdog looks from southern man Tommie Lee Jones risks giving a story heartburn. Sad to say, that happens here. Tommie is Hank Deerfield, a grim, former MP whose GI Joe son Mike, an Iraq veteran, has gone missing from his Texas base. Missing turns to murder most foul when Mike’s mutilated body is found off a desert road. Determined to know more, Hank embarks on a pilgrimage of sorts to his son’s base. Which is when he discovers the military account of what happened doesn’t quite make sense. Enter dedicated detective Emily Sanders (a hopelessly miscast and nearly unrecognizable Charlize Theron). Mocked by her snorting male superiors, she soon comes to appreciate Hank’s testosterone doggedness.
Director Paul Haggis uses Iraq flashbacks to reveal that Mike wasn’t always the angel his mother (Susan Sarandon) adored and that the noble stories told by his closest buddies have holes. In sequence, we learn that war is hell, and that soldiers under pressure can do ghoulish things; that the military is devious; that female cops are tougher than their male counterparts; that Tommie Lee Hank won’t change his expression no matter what. Haggis’ earnestness isn’t in doubt. But his film loses traction early, after which heavy-handedness turns the story trivial. Based on Mark Boal’s 2004 magazine article about the murder of GI Richard Davis.