Hello again everyone. I don’t know about all of you, but I had a rather long but enjoyable weekend. Started off with Iron Man 2 on Friday (click the link to see what I thought of it). Then this weekend, I was coaching and helping to run a basketball tournament. All day both days. It was fun but exhausting.
As it is Monday, it’s the official movie review day. So here we go…
The Messenger (2009)
Starring: Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, and Samantha Morton
Directed By: Oren Moverman
2009 was a big year for military movies with The Hurt Locker winning the Best Picture Academy Award. That movie showed a very glamourless portrayal of war; showing the effects of it on the characters involved. What was especially interesting to me was that the film wasn’t about the typical infantry platoon we’re accustomed to; it was about a bomb detonation squad. The Messenger is also about an unsung job of the military: those who have the duty to tell the next-of-kin that their loved one has died.
As the movie begins, we meet Staff Sergeant William Montgomery (Foster). He has returned from the Iraq theater and is lauded as an hero for saving his friends during a fire fight. In that fight, he is wounded by a bomb (most notably to his eye and leg). To finish out his remaining few weeks, he’s placed in the Casualty Notification Service under the guidance of Captain Tony Stone (Harrelson in an Oscar nominated performance). As stated before, it is their job to notify families that their son/daughter/husband/wife has died in the line of duty. This is obviously a thank less job, one that’s extremely difficult to watch.
Montgomery is taught the rules of the job by Stone. Stone believes there are certain thing you do and do not do. It is essential for the family to hear from them first and not a news organization. He also emphasizes to be ready for anything. Montgomery would soon develop a relationship with one of those notified (Morton’s Olivia Pitterson), go on a trip with Stone (where Stone “falls off the wagon”) and drunkenly crash his ex-flame’s (Jena Malone) wedding reception. The entire time, Montgomery is trying to adjust to life away from combat and Stone is trying to live out a lonely existence all while giving people the worst news they’ll ever have to hear.
The notifications are truly brutal to see. Nearly everyone breaks down. One would slap Stone; another (Steve Buscemi in a great cameo) would spit on Montgomery’s face. All of the reactions are not only different from one another, but all seem absolutely genuine. This is the backdrop for the characters of Montgomery and Stone. Montgomery comes back all alone, dealing with being called an hero when he doesn’t believe he should be called one. He is all alone, his childhood sweetheart having moved on, and seems to only be able to relate to Olivia.
Stone is a different story altogether. While off duty, he seems like a very outgoing kind of guy. He’s able get women almost at will (been married three times, for example). However, there’s a underlying current of loneliness. He constantly asks Montgomery to “sit and stay.” He lies saying that he need Montgomery around to help him get laid (the reason for the previously mentioned trip). He clearly doesn’t need help, he just wants a buddy to come along as he doesn’t have any true friends.
This is a slower, character driven movie. We follow it; we feel their despair and pain. We don’t really know how it’s going to end for anyone involved, whether they’ll be okay or not. As with most movies like this, the acting is great. It has to be. Foster has some a long way from his days on the Disney channel show “Flash Forward.” He has a quiet demeanor about him, but knows how and when to blow up. Harrelson is just as good, definitely worthy of his Oscar nomination. Harrelson, one of the hardest working actors out there, has quietly built up a nice resume of memorable characters. Morton and Malone are good in their roles as well.
Bottom Line: This is not an easy movie to watch at all. All of the notification are beyond heartbreaking. There is nothing to get you ready for it and I couldn’t imagine the reality of it at all. However, the performances are really good and the leads are superb. I came away liking the movie and honestly feel like it is one of the better films released last year. I just don’t know if I can sit and watch it again.
I’ll be back again Wednesday. Not exactly sure with what, though. I’ll figure it out.