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In the Valley of Elah

Screenwriter: Paul Haggis

Distrib/release date: Warner Independent Pictures/Sept. 14

Storyline: An Iraq vet’s father (Tommy Lee Jones) takes the lead in investigating the mysterious Stateside disappearance of his son.

About the script: Instead of tackling Hollywood’s hottest topic, the Iraq war, via the obvious storylines — politicians, journalists or soldiers — Haggis, who was inspired by a true story first reported by Boal in Playboy, chose to tell the story through the eyes of an unconventional protagonist — a Tennessee-based Vietnam vet blinded by pride.

Biggest challenge: “Trying to figure out how to do a political film that was nonpartisan,” Haggis says. “I very much wanted to avoid pointing the finger — because we are way too good in America at pointing the finger and blaming people — so I wanted the finger to slowly point back directly at me and at us and not blame any particular faction.”

Breakthrough idea: “To tell it as a murder mystery and then three-quarters of the way through to change genres and to say it is no longer important who is responsible. So it went from a murder mystery to a moral mystery.”

Choice line: “I hated it over there (Iraq) … I couldn’t wait to get out. After two weeks here (in America), all I want to do is go back.”

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