Roger Ebert nails it when he says that "[t]hose who call In the Valley of Elah anti-Iraq war will not have been paying attention." The film does a masterful job to portray the effects, as predictable as they are unintended, that the war has on soldiers and their families, without shoving an anti-war message down your throat. It is a movie about real people, with real human feelings, behaving as you would expect them to behave under the circumstances. It does not overdramatize reality, there is no need to. It makes its points not by shouting about life, but by simply observing it. That is what makes it so compelling.
Perhaps In The Valley Of Elah would not have won a Best Picture award even if it had been nominated, given the strong competition of the ultimate winner, No Country For Old Men, and of the other two excellent movies in the category (the magnificent There Will Be Blood and Michael Clayton). But the fact that it was bypassed in favor of Juno is to the everlasting infamy of the Academy.
With Tommy Lee Jones, once again incomprehensibly snubbed by the Academy for Best Actor, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon and Josh Brolin, among others.