(First week at the Cumberland.)
I’ve been reading some of the reviews of this movie in papers and in iMDb, and I saw in the latter that some anonymous person conclude that “The Messenger” is not a war movie (Faux pas alert, especially for a n00b like me: I shouldn’t be reading other people’s reviews because it’s gonna bleed into mine. Also, I shouldn’t be reading fucking iMDb. Not dissing the creators). It IS a war movie. As the actual soldiers die, the next of kin continues the battle for them. They carry the soldier’s pain and translate them emotionally. They often exhibit rage. Some accept the casualties of war, hide their wounds, and move on.
Woody Harrelson’s character Capt. Tony Stone (subtle) is an example of the latter, instructing his protege Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) (will as in future? Why am I writing this review like I’m still in college?) to shoot the message and the sometimes, the next of kin might shoot you. He’s baffled why the next of kin can’t get the concept that soldiers die in war and even introduces the idea to televise military funerals so that people will get used to it. And Stone unknowingly encounters a mirror image in Samantha Morton’s character Olivia (don’t know what her name means, ok), who reacts to her husband’s death by telling the messengers how hard it is for them and shaking their hands. She’s a dutiful, stoic soldier’s wife with unwritten regulations thrusted upon her, perfect and therefore suspicious.
Another battle begins to exist between Stone and Montgomery, the latter finding his own way to deliver a script nobody wants to say. At one point Montgomery tells the next of kin about their son’s death in the most awkward places to do so and turns it into a powerful moment, only for Stone to abscond him.
We see characters with different ways of coping with grief and war. Like your independent drama, it pulls on the strings without insisting on orchestrated high notes. Also in the film are three rewarding cameos.