In the Valley of Elah, Only You, The 40 Year Old Virgin: films on TV today

Tommy Lee Jones searches for his son, Marisa Tomei runs out on her fiancé and everyone tries to help Steve Carell get laid: the RadioTimes team’s pick of free-to-air films on TV today


In the Valley of Elah ★★★★
11.40pm-1.35am BBC1 


Crash writer/director Paul Haggis contributes thoughtfully to the crop of late-noughties US films looking at the painful – and ongoing – subject of the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though it may lack the wham-bang action of Paul Greengrass’s subsequent Green Zone, it is at least free of the liberal hand-wringing that scuppered Robert Redford’s Lions for Lambs. In the story of army veteran Tommy Lee Jones’s search for his missing son, recently returned from Iraq, it humanises a big subject. A fictionalised version of an article by journalist Mark Boal (who later wrote The Hurt Locker), it retains the ring of truth, and Haggis’s downbeat telling avoids gung-ho glamourisation of military life. Jones is matched by Charlize Theron as a sympathetic detective, and although the combat action is seen only in flashback it is an anti-war film in the serious mould of Platoon, A Few Good Men and its 2007 contemporary Redacted.

Sink the Bismarck! ★★★★
11.25am-1.25pm More4 

The pride of the German fleet is targeted by the British in this true-story war movie. Kenneth More is the man leading the operation from the Admiralty, with Dana Wynter as the Wren assistant who touches the heart of the emotionally reserved officer. Out at sea, things come to a head in the North Atlantic, with the Royal Navy out to avenge the sinking of HMS Hood.  

Only You ★★★★
6.50-9.00pm Film4 

The premise of this reassuringly old-fashioned romance is a kooky one, and finds Marisa Tomei running out on her own wedding to fulfil a romantic prediction given to her by an Ouija board when she was a child. But instead of meeting her Mr Right, she finds herself traipsing around Italy’s most scenic spots with a certain Peter Right, played with roguish charm by Robert Downey Jr.  

The 40 Year Old Virgin ★★★
10.45pm-1.05am ITV2  

This comedy offered the careers of Steve Carrell and Judd Apatow a huge boost. Carell went from a scene-stealer to a star playing the middle-aged man trying to lose his cherry, and he collaborated on the script with Apatow, here making his directing debut. After this, the hits just kept on coming for both funny men.

What Lies Beneath ★★★
11.05pm-1.35am Film4 


Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer star here as an impossibly good-looking couple who have just moved into a lovely lakeside home. But who is making all those strange noises? And what’s going on with the neighbours? Robert Zemeckis’s movie delights in throwing in a few curveballs in this spooky tale, which also boasts one of the tensest scenes ever set in a bath.