Review: The Messenger

Fact–There are very few films that move me but when it happens, I know it in an instant.  “The Messenger” is one of those films. From the very first scene I was instantly attached to this film and found myself not wanting it to end.  By far this film is the year’s most compassionate and with outstanding performances by Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson, its also one of the best.

The year 2009 gave us three substantial war based films, “The Hurt Locker” which focused on the war abroad, “Brothers” which focused on the emotional war between families and now “The Messenger,” a film that focuses on the war brought home.  Written by Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman, this films tells the amazing story of SSgt. Will Montgomery,   a soldier who struggles with an ethical barrier when he falls for the widow of a fallen soldier.  In his last three months of duty,  SSgt. Montgomery, portrayed by Ben Foster, is given the dreadful task of notifying the next of kin of fallen soldiers in Iraq. Alongside his brash commanding officer Capt. Tony Stone (Harrelson), he struggles with being the messenger of grim news, until one day after delivering news to a young woman named Olivia (Samantha Morton) he crosses an ethical line and begins to fall in love with her.

This film in one word is endearing. A directorial debut for Moverman, “The Messenger” sheds a bright light on the families who are deeply affected by the pitfalls of war.  Never in the almost two hours of run time do you feel that this film was trying to prove a point. There’s no subliminal political message or statement making scene, this film just tells the story as is.

Ben Foster, after a slew of supporting roles, does a tremendous job in the lead role of SSgt. Montgomery. I’ve always been a huge fan of his work, especially his role in “Alpha Dog” and as usual he doesn’t let me down. This is by far a career changing performance for him and if there are any vacant slots this awards season, his name should fill them.  Foster portrays his character with depth and grace; there is never a moment where you don’t see him as SSgt. Montgomery. In a scene between him and Morton, he makes it so his passion for her character translates beyond the screen and into the audience’s soul. It’s one of my favorite scenes of the film because it exhibits both Foster and Morton’s amazing talent.

And speaking of talent, Woody Harrelson also gives a career defining performance as Cpt. Tony Stone, an older soldier who shows Fosters character the ropes of being a messenger. Harrelson’s performance has already received early buzz on the awards season train and after seeing his performance for myself there is no doubt that he will ride it out all the way to final stop, the Oscars.  Simply put, no other actor could have played this role as well as he did.

Other high notes of the film included memorable cameos by America’s Next Top Model alum YaYa DaCosta and veteran actor Steve Buscemi as grieving family members. I talk about underrated actors a lot but Buscemi may be THE MOST underrated and under appreciated actor of all time. He may not have the great looks of his counterparts but in this “blink and you miss” role,  he is–as always– phenomenal.  As for DaCosta, I would love to see this girl in more roles in the near future.  She’s set to appear in the much anticipated “Tron Legacy” and I can’t  wait to see what else Tinseltown has in store for her.

Overall “The Messenger”  could stand up next to any “most talked about film” of the year. Its gripping, powerful, beautifully portrayed, and most importantly its real.

My Grade: 9/10



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