The Messenger

messenger-posterQuickcard Review

The Messenger

Directed by: Oren Moverman
Cast: Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, Samantha Morton
Running Time: 1 hr 48 min
Rating: R
Release Date: December 4, 2009

PLOT: Sergeant Will Montgomery (Foster) and Sergeant Anthony Stone (Harrelson) are the soldiers who have the unenviable task of notifying army families after a soldier dies in battle.

WHO’S IT FOR? It’s an emotional story, with a different perspective. We are watching soldiers deal with delivering bad news, instead of just watching families grieve.

OVERALL

War, what is it good for? Movies. Infinity is exactly how many movies can be made about war. Here’s a new one. The story of messenger’s delivering the worst news possible to families in an incredibly griping tale.

Will Montgomery has been selected after an injury sent him home. He tries to tell his superiors that it’s not a job for him because of his beliefs, but that’s exactly why they have picked him. They have hope that he’s emotionally closed off enough for a job this difficult to deliver.

It’s hard to say this is a buddy flick, but when Will is partnered with Tony (Harrelson) that’s exactly what this becomes … except of course for the extremely difficult subject matter. One of the best moments they share is one of their first, with Tony chewing on watermelon, delivering the ins and outs of being a messenger. For example, say killed or died. Don’t mince your words or suddenly a grandma might think their kid has defected (“He’s not with us anymore.”)

We’re always on the other side, following the people that receive the news, instead of those forced to give it. For a while, it appears that is all we will do. It’s a process that becomes addictive, and I would have been happy (in a sad way) to continue watching. After Steve Buscemi’s cameo, Morton shows up as Olivia and it seems it will be a celebrity who’s who for those dealing with dead soldiers. That’s not the case.  Will takes a special interest in Olivia after he gives her the news about her husband. He’s searching for some meaning, but he doesn’t know what.

We’re used to Foster playing a psycho. Thankfully, that’s shifted. He’s a great actor, and is finally given the chance to prove it without scaring the hell out of everyone. He still carries some of that intensity with him, especially when flinging darts at the board at three in the morning.

Will is a man who is always on the verge. The verge of breaking down, the verge losing it. Now it appears Ben Foster is on the verge of breaking through.

Will and Tony take a break from bearing the bad news to families, which leads to dysfunction and hopefully growth on a road trip that includes showing up to Will’s ex-girlfriend’s rehearsal dinner. It leads to my second favorite Harrelson moment, which is so tiny that you might not even notice. He combs through his eyebrow with a fork.

We are constantly smacked in the face with what feels like raw emotion.

This is a powerful war film that never needs to enter the battlefield for you to be fully absorbed.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

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