The Messenger? More like The Meh-senger. Okay, now that I’ve fulfilled my quota of one bad pun per blog post, I can get on with this review.
Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant who has returned home from Iraq, is assigned to the Army’s Casualty Notification service. Montgomery is partnered with Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), to give notice to the families of fallen soldiers. The Sergeant is drawn to Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morton), whom he has delivered the news of her husband’s death.
There isn’t really much that goes with this film, other than Morton and Foster’s relationship. It just basically a tale of two dudes who go from house to house telling these families that their loved one has tragically been killed in action.
The film has a lot of dark and upsetting subjects, but is handled with such care, and not as exploited as you would think. Not only is this a tale of these two and their friendship that grows over time, but about the grief that these two have after war, and what it does to their lives personally after the war.
The little sub plot between Foster and Morton does not seem needed one bit. I understand the message the film was trying to go out with in this, but it wasn’t as rich or complicated as the relationship between Foster and Harrelson.
The best thing about the film would have to be its main characters and the performances. Ben Foster is this young and cocky former soldier who is still having reoccurring trauma from previous war and really does show how powerful he actually can be as an actor. But the best is Woody Harrelson, who shows that he can be one of the funniest guys in some of the darkest material, but change emotions so quickly and still have you believe in the guy. Their friendship over time changes into something that is just simply about business, and then to something close and more beautiful. I don’t mean for it to sound gay or anything, but at the beginning you feel like you know these characters, and then by the end you have a total feeling of who they are, and why they act like this.
I think that some stuff in this film is dark, but the film never really got dark enough for me. The families reactions were dark, but I never sensed any feeling of to how these two guys felt about doing their jobs, maybe for a scene or two.
Consensus: The Messenger may not be the darkest and well-directed war film, but features emotionally strong scenes, backed by great characterization and performances by Foster and Harrelson.