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The Messenger (2010)

A 2009 independent film starring Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson

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Wars and Afterburn

  • May 23, 2010
THE MESSENGER, even from the 'impersonal' title choice, places the complete picture of the emotional devastation that wars create. The horrors and psychological destruction that occur on the battlefield and in the trenches awaiting encounter are only one aspect of the insanity of war. The afterburn - the effects on returning soldiers permanently damaged by the experience as well as the effects on families and loved ones who have wither been completely killed in action or simply damaged at time beyond repair - is the subject of this powerful film THE MESSENGER written (with Alessandro Camon) and directed by Oren Moverman. It follows the lives and post engagement assignments of two men fulfilling their obligations to the government by taking the roles of notifying the next of kin at the earliest possible hour after the death of a soldier is verified.

The 'all business' Col. Stuart Dorsett (a powerful portrayal by Eamonn Walker) in forms the newly returned home Staff Sargeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster, in one of his most sensitive roles of his career) that despite his physical traumas he is nursing he has been assigned a Casualty Notification Officer and will be taught the ropes by ex-alcoholic Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harelson, a finely nuanced and controlled performance). The two bond, share past experiences (Will has just been ditched by his girl Kelly - Jena Malone, etc) and begin the learning process of notifying the next of kin. What follows is the spectrum of anguish and crushing agony played by actors Steve Buscemi, Yaya DaCosta, Portia, Lisa Joyce, et al and the effect of the encounters is blisteringly brutal. The Will and Tony deliver the news to on Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morton) whose failing marriage to her now deceased husband makes her reception of the news outlined with dignity. This incident makes a deep impression on Will and a relationship develops between these two needy people, one that is completely forbidden by military code. How Will and Tony deal with this miserable job and how it affects both of them is the run of the film.

The film is tough to watch, so gut-wrenching is the subject matter, yet director Oren Moverman guides the film with restraint, ably assisted by the actors whose performances are all of outstanding quality, and this 'quiet' manner in which he unravels this story makes it just that much more tough to digest. If more people would watch this film hopefully there would be more attention paid to the madness of war. It is an important lesson, perfectly delivered. Grady Harp, May 10

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More The Messenger reviews
review by . May 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
If you saw Black Hawk Down and The Hurt Locker you might have gotten an idea of modern warfare - what the Soldiers are going through on a daily basis. Although Hollywood made, these films do not glorify the violence or the people; they just get you there.  Of course watching a movie - that is any movie - is nothing close to the real thing. But at least some films try to transmit an accurate picture of the situation, including the angst, shock, anger, and demonstrate the professionalism …
review by . February 26, 2010
Coming Through Loud and Clear
 THE MESSENGER Written by Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman   Directed by Oren Moverman   Starring Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton Dale Martin: Why are you here?  Why aren’t you dead? THE MESSENGER opens on an eye.  This is an eye that has clearly been through difficult terrain and has seen its fair share of unnecessary horror.  Its sadness and despair hang in its pupil, weighting in down as the tears inevitably fall from the corners.  …
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Go see this movie! Ben Foster is incredible. Woody is incredible. This movie is incredible.
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Started off strong, and was really good until about 3/4 way through.. then suddenly went totally down hill with bad dialogue and lame plot developments. It was like the writers just abruptly stopped trying. Enjoyed Woody's character for the most par though - very strong in the first half anyway.
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
An excellent character study that looks at the lives of the men whose duty it is to inform families that their loved ones have been killed while enlisted. Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson give nuanced and powerful performances.
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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If the army has a second-worst job (it goes without saying that combat is by far the scariest and most horrific), it has to be the one depicted in director-cowriter Oren Moverman'sThe Messenger, which draws us into the lives of the soldiers whose grim duty it is to inform next of kin that a loved one has died in the conflict in Iraq. Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster, best known for his recurring role inSix Feet Under) has just returned home, injured, decorated as a hero for saving several other soldiers, and only three months from being discharged, when he is assigned to Casualty Notification (described by his commanding officer as "a sacred mission"). Paired with Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), a tightly wound, by-the-book veteran, Will soon discovers just how excruciating their job is, as a series of wrenchingly powerful scenes shows them delivering the worst possible news to spouses, parents, and others. The responses vary--stunned disbelief, weeping hysterics, becoming physically ill, even spitting in Will's face--but when Stone and Montgomery encounter Olivia (Samantha Morton), her reaction to being told she is now a widow is so dignified that Will, whose girlfriend (Jena Malone) found another man while he was at war, starts to quietly court her, in defiance of strict army regulations. The acting by those in both major and minor roles is uniformly excellent. Foster and Morton's scenes together are tender, tentative, and poignant ...
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Director: Oren Moverman
DVD Release Date: May 18, 2010
Runtime: 118 minutes
Studio: Oscilloscope Laboratories
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