The Messenger has a lot going for it. The plot line is unique and ripe with potential. Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster play soldiers assigned to the Casualty Notification Office – they are the ones who ring the doorbell of the survivors to tell them that their loved one has died. Harrelson’s character, Tony Stone, has been at it a long time, and Foster’s Will Montgomery, recently injured in Iraq, gets this assignment just three months prior to his discharge. Much of the film centers on Will developing a somewhat different perspective on war and the military. Like The Hurt Locker, which I couldn’t help comparing it to, it will be considered a “war” movie, and also like The Hurt Locker, it is really more of a drama and character study. Harrelson has gotten a ton of accolades for his turn in The Messenger, and he deserves them. He hasn’t had this caliber of material to work with since The People Vs. Larry Flynt. Ben Foster displayed some acting agility as well, and his character was a good foil for Harrelson’s. The whole affair had an almost Clint Eastwood flavor which will, no doubt, attract many viewers. But for me, what sealed the deal was the wonderful Samantha Morton. So I’m going to digress for a moment.
I first saw Samantha Morton in Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown, where she played Sean Penn’s mute girlfriend and got an Oscar nomination for her role. She is an awesome actress, and continued to shine in such films as In America, Longford, and Morvern Callar (this movie is a must–see for all you offbeat independent movie lovers). She has a supporting role in The Messenger, but for me, this film was made way more interesting by her contribution.
I was a little disappointed in the actors who played the survivors. They weren’t quite right-on, and this was readily apparent when viewing one of the special features showing interviews with actual survivors. The responses to the news of the deaths, as characterized on the screen, fell short with the exception, of course, of Samantha Morton’s character. I might also add that, although I would walk on hot coals for Steve Buscemi any day, here he was really over the top. Maybe he was still shaking off The Sopranos.
The Messenger is a good movie, overall. The interesting storyline with its emphasis on the survivors of war, together with some strong acting chops, helped create a very watchable film. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 5/18/10