Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Summary: Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) is a war hero who has survived scrap metal explosion and is no longer fighting the war. For the remainder of his service he is assigned to notification duty where he must report the deaths of soldiers to their next of kin. Sgt. Montgomery works under the supervision of Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson). Capt. Stone has experience in this area and quickly lays down the ethical ground rules for the job. After notifying a wife that her husband has been killed Sgt. Montgomery violates the rules by becoming involved with the widow due to his sense of compassion and his own need for love.
Plot (A): There are several sides to war which society is accustomed to seeing whether it’s in a movie or on the news. The brutal battles, the explosions, the rescuing, and of course the death are all things society is familiar with seeing in one way or another. However, there is something we never see. Something that is so personal and heartbreaking that it’s difficult to recreate in a movie. When a soldier dies in combat, another solider(s) is given the difficult task to notify the family. This is what you see in The Messenger. This film is an emotional rollercoaster. Although I cannot speak from experience I would have to imagine that next to fighting in battle notification duty is the hardest job a solider could have. While there is no physical danger the emotional trauma can sometimes be too much to handle. In The Messenger you see how differently Sgt. Montgomery and Capt. Stone handle such emotionally fragile moments. While I highly recommend this movie it may be too hard to watch if you have a family member in the military. (The film setting is in New Jersey and was shot in several NJ towns)
Acting & Dialogue (A): Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma, Alpha Dog) is a star on the rise. This is one of his best performances and it is so moving. Although Fosters character breaks protocol he provides family members with sincere emotions of sympathy and regret. He understands their pain all too well. Do not be surprised if you see Foster nominated for an Oscar in the future. He is actor that flies completely under the radar. Woody Harrelson is equally as powerful in this film. Harrelson depicts Stone has the complete opposite to Montgomery. While he too understands the sudden shock and pain these family members are experiencing he is very robotic about how he carries out his job. Harrelson shows the audience that his character has experience but he refuses to put any emotion into the job for the risk of his own sanity and sobriety. Harrelson’s performance was so astounding that he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar this past year. When this movie was out in theaters I read that Harrelson and Foster did not have any interaction with the actors who played the family members. When the two leading actors came knocking on the door it was the first time they were meeting. I’m not sure if that was their decision or the directors. However, the purpose of this was to recreate, in some molecule of a way, what it would actually be like. The reactions are extremely authentic and it’s difficult to watch at times. One father throws up while another father (Steve Buscemi) spits in Harrelson’s face. During the course of this film I found myself to be an emotional mess. Although I didn’t cry I became extremely agitated when the disc started skipping for some reason. This is a film that is not supposed to make you feel good. However, it is story that makes you aware of the tragedies that go unseen in life.
Sex Appeal (8): Two minutes in there are some boobs and again 15-20 minutes later. That was the only bright side to this story.
Director (A): The Messenger is Oren Moverman’s first film as a director. What a way to make a first impression. His direction in the film was flawless. At no point was the film slow or lacked improper character development. Moverman understood the complexity of the film and the level of seriousness it depicts. I’m going to leave it at this because I know somewhere in the United States some family is being notified of the death of their loved one and it’s too difficult to get my head around right now.