Movie Review: The Messenger

“I’d like to strap her on and wear her like a government-issue gas mask.”

“I’m pregnant.” “What?” “Oh, I’m just fucking with you. Have a nice life.”

The Messenger is an exceptional movie that offers a truly distinctive experience in a field that is never lacking for movies. War is a big-ticket item for the big screen, always has been, but while The Messenger is a movie about war, it manages to tackle an angle of the market most overlook.

It is a movie about one of the least desirable jobs in the military: delivering the death notices of fellow soldiers to their families, and it is unique in that it is a movie about war that never focuses on the war itself.

It follows the story of two Army Casualty Notification messengers, Will Montgomery (Bill Foster)—a Staff Sergeant and “war hero” recently returned and reassigned from Iraq, as well as his superior and mentor Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson). The film plods along as a series of excruciating events, defined by delivery after delivery, each as agonizing an experience to behold as the last. This is a movie about tragedy, and it cultivates it hauntingly. The space between these tragedies is filled with the interaction between Montgomery and Stone, defining their greatly differing views on what they do and the life of a soldier in general, as well as the budding relationship between Montgomery and one of the war widows to whom he has delivered the terrible news.

Both Harrelson and Foster deliver excellent performances, at times moving, at times sickening, but always powerful, emotional, and painfully thought-provoking. Foster’s character is consumed by his own emotions, his connection, struggling with the role he is forced to serve. Harrelson is the by-the-book military man, desperate to disassociate from the events he must engage. He keeps the world at a distance. Foster is the human, Harrelson is, in many ways, the monster—because it is what he needs to be to see the job done. Both are inherently flawed though, as all people are, with their quirks and skeletons-in-the-closet, and they strike you with their believability, and the emotional connection you will develop to them.

The script is powerful, the characters well-developed, and the movie moves and breathes with its own unsettling atmosphere, nestled up against images of beautiful, hopeful backdrops and endearing, but doomed close-ups of love and redemption amidst the madness. The movie never gets away from or ahead of itself, and the pace never dulls, even if the messages it brings may not make for the most complex and intricate of plots.

The movie itself manages to touch you without the need for any of the explosive, action-raddled moments of heart-wrenching war, and that alone earns it much applause from where I’m sitting. This is a movie about the after-effects, about what happens in the wake of Hollywood’s dramatics—and it is stunning in what it achieves. Such lack of action may sound unappealing, but I assure you, it will keep your hairs on end the whole way through.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

~ by Chris G. on June 9, 2010.

One Response to “Movie Review: The Messenger”

  1. Movie Review: The Messenger…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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