Movie of the Day – The Messenger (2009)

On this Memorial Day, I know it is weirdly customary for some reason to watch war movies.  Now I am all for a good war film, but watching a film like Platoon or Saving Private Ryan on a day when we are honoring veterans doesn’t seem a bit kosher to me.  Maybe it’s just me, but that is how I feel.  So if you were to watch a film about war or about people who served in war times, I think today’s film pick is an unsung film that captures the emotional impact and somber effect about those who have served and what their service means to family or loved ones.  The Messenger is a film that looks at the other side of war, the one where people don’t come back from their war to their families and friends, instead the news is broken to them all by the words of servicemen tasked with the most difficult job of all.

Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), a lone rebellious U.S. ArmyStaff Sergeant and declared war hero, has returned home from Iraq, is assigned to the Army’s Casualty Notification service. Montgomery is partnered with a strict recovering alcoholic, Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), to give notice to the families of fallen soldiers and spend time with him off protocol. The Sergeant is drawn to Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morton), now a single mother, to whom he has delivered news of her husband’s death.  (source)

While most of the war time films out there deal with the bombastic approach to celebrating the service of our men and women through capturing their triumphs of combat, The Messenger doesn’t bring happiness or bring a sense of pride.  The film covers a dark, not often seen, subject matter as the side effects of war.  The soldiers who don’t make it back to their loved are notified about the respective soldier.  Harrelson and Foster both drive this strong narrative story to get at the emotional core of the subject, without really having to say much.  The Messenger is one of the more powerful war films out there, not needing combat or violence to convey the terribleness of war, but rather just a solemn sentence to a distraught family does more than bullets and explosions.

It cuts deep to the heart, a film whose leaves us with lingering, voyeuristic shots of families reaction to the news of their loved ones dying in combat.  Some lash out at Harrelson and Foster, projecting their pain and frustration on the men in uniform.  Others breakdown, sobbing and collapsing onto the ground, struggling to cope with the news that the war has taken the ones they love.  Then there are people who thank them, the one who are composed and knew the risks that their soldier took on by participating in war.  It’s the whole gamut of emotions that offer up the intensity for a film that explores the private emotions that come with the news that Harrelson and Foster deliver, day in and day out.  But to carry this hard burden and task, Woody Harrelson does an amazing job playing the hardened, recovering alcoholic.  Tony Stone is a man who’s emotions have become so recessed that you wonder what keeps him going or even if he war and bringing news about the dead has left him hollow inside.  Foster brings that regretful emotion of surviving the war to the doorstep of families he informs.  A war hero, often with a heavy heart, laments that he is alive and his job is to remind people that their soldier is coming back.

It’s a sobering and poignant reminder that there is more to war than just the conflict that is taking place on some far off country.  The unseen side of combat is the destruction and reminder to families that have sacrificed a loved one for the greater cause of freedom.  The message of platitudes ring hallow with some of the families, knowing that they died serving their country, but it doesn’t do anything to bring them back.  The two take to heart their task, even though they have separate what happens, but it is powerful none the less.

I am not certain if this is the right sort of movie today, but in a way we are remembering those have served our country.  Those that have died for freedom, The Messenger does more to showcase the the unseen casualties of war, even if it is peering into the most heartbreaking and intimate moments of remorse.

*images via RottenTomatoes

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

4 Responses to Movie of the Day – The Messenger (2009)

  1. rochpikey says:

    Excellent choice considering the holiday. Shows great perspectives from both sides of the unfortunate message some people receive.

  2. I wasn’t sure how I felt after watching this one…Great review, though.

    • Nick says:

      I didn’t feel awesome after watching this movie nor did I feel uplifted. I think that is the point of the film, the whole aspect of closure and solace is just there. It’s never a happy time getting news like that and I like that the film left me a bit empty. It hammers that point home.

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