"what exactly was the point of making this film"
I'm confused. What exactly was the point of making this film? Epics such as Apocalypse Now informed and intrigued while comedies like Good Morning Vietnam brought some humanity to an otherwise horrific historic tragedy (though tragedy is clearly an understatement). The Valley of Elah, meanwhile, focuses on a disaster still very fresh in out minds: Iraq.
The importance of the American flag may hint at patriotism, but Director Paul Haggis' interpretation of the US Army proceeds to squash any notion of pride. Over 121 minutes I was continuously reminded of all the evil going on in the world; war, death, torture, inequality. The clever use Hank Deerfield's (Tommy Lee Jones) AWOL son's mobile phone footage allowed very real and disturbing war images to regularly take over the screen. As if we haven't seen enough real evidence of the corruption and inhumane treatment during "the war on terror" - or what ever excuse they're using these days.
You'd have to be severely cold hearted not to shed a few tears - but rather then the result of superb directing or intricate insightfulness mine were because I was reminded of how much unimaginable suffering the war has caused to millions. Personally, I'd rather spare myself the anguish.
That's not to say the cast were anything but great. Charlize Theron's well practiced strong woman character, Emily Sanders, was as believable as ever while Jones was perfect as the all-American ex-Army dad. Susan Sarandon didn't disappoint either, though it's a shame we see so little of her. And a fantastic performance by the relatively unknown Wes Chatham as Corporal Steve Penning and Jake McLaughlin as Spc. Gordon Bonner. It's just a shame that this film doesn't really know its purpose. I doubt it's trying to encourage new recruits, nor did I feel inspired to try and stop the fighting.
If Haggis wanted to show things as they really are then I'm afraid his timing couldn't be worse. Wait until the troops have left, let us heal a little, before attempting to analyse and interfere.