the Valley of Elah
In the spring of 2004, I had just finished making my first film as
a director and was looking for my second. I read Mark Boal’s
article, “Death and Dishonor.” The story of Lanny Davis’ search
for his missing son, Specialist Richard Davis, made my heart stop.
I began doing a lot of reading – everything from small town newspaper
articles to blogs that soldiers were writing about their experiences
in Iraq. I talked to vets who’d just returned and some on their
In this war, our men and women have to make impossible decisions every
day. Sometimes those decisions work out just fine, other times they
have terrible consequences. And they are almost always made in the
blink of an eye.
I wasn’t interested in how a bad person lived with making the
wrong decision – I wanted to know how a good person lives with
making the right one.
That’s what I heard, over and over, as troops talked about the
things that haunted them. They knew they’d made the right decision,
they knew they would make the same decision again. But they were still
having trouble coming to grips with it.
Ultimately what I wanted to explore was our responsibility. Whether
we are for or against this war, those men and women are over there
because we, our government, sent them there. And we can try and shirk
responsibility or distance ourselves, but they are our troops, our
men and women, our responsibility. What they are doing is in our name.
And that’s what brought me to the story of David and Goliath.
Every day, for 40 days, Goliath strode down the hill into the Valley
of Elah, and challenged the King’s bravest and strongest warriors,
but no one would fight him. Until a boy named David came delivering
bread, and said “I will fight the giant.” The King offered
David his own armor, but it was much too big. So, armed only with his
sling and five smooth stones, David stepped into the valley to face
Goliath. Goliath charged. David stood his ground and flung his stone,
and struck the giant down.
An incredible feat of bravery. What the Bible doesn’t tell us
is how many boys the King sent into the valley before him. How many
stories of brave young men were never told? How many aren’t being
So, I decided to take all that, boil it down until it could fit into
a thimble and bury it deep in the heart of a murder mystery, set in
Tennessee and New Mexico.
I want to thank Lanny Davis and his wife, Remy. They were the inspiration
for this, and while the story changed, what they suffered in their
search for the truth is more than any parents should ever have to bear.
The movie is dedicated to the memory of their son, Richard, a good
boy and a good soldier, who did everything his country asked him to