60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why is this film overlooked by critics and awards?
With the exception of Woody Harrelson getting nominated for Best Supporting Actor, THE MESSENGER has not been getting the attention that it deserves from the critics and awards. This is the film that should've been nominated for Best Picture (Drama) by the Golden Globe Awards. This is the film that should've been nominated for Best Picture by the Broadcast Film Critics...
Published on January 21, 2010 by Ron
58 of 76 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Contrived tale of Army Casualty Notification Unit
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The job of notifying next of kin by the Army Casualty Notification Unit is an extremely sensitive one. Such a job is not entrusted to just anyone in the military--you have to undergo significant training before you're assigned to such a specialized unit. That's why it's hard to believe that Staff Sergeant Will...
Published on February 10, 2010 by Turfseer
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why is this film overlooked by critics and awards?,
With the exception of Woody Harrelson getting nominated for Best Supporting Actor, THE MESSENGER has not been getting the attention that it deserves from the critics and awards. This is the film that should've been nominated for Best Picture (Drama) by the Golden Globe Awards. This is the film that should've been nominated for Best Picture by the Broadcast Film Critics Awards. With the exception of the Independent Spirit Awards, THE MESSENGER is being grossly overlooked. I think it may be because it is not released by a major distributor. And it is overshadowed by THE HURT LOCKER. To tell you the truth, I have seen both films, and I'll take THE MESSENGER over THE HURT LOCKER anyday. THE HURT LOCKER was more suspenseful, but THE MESSENGER did a much better job examining the human condition from both the soldiers and the civilians' point of view. In a way it reminded me of a contemporary version of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT because it depicted the horrors of the war, and the effects that it had on both the soldiers and their loved ones. I highly recommend this film. It is one of the best films of 2009. One last thing--it is about time Woody Harrelson wins an Oscar for his performance as an actor. He is incredible in this film.
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless, powerful, deeply moving.,
I have seldom seen a more moving or seamless antiwar film than Oren Moverman's "The Messenger." Its Iraq War theme makes it absolutely up to the minute, yet its portrayal of the raw grief that war creates echoes throughout human history. In some ways, "The Messenger" serves as a companion piece to Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker." "The Hurt Locker" portrays the effect of the Iraq War on combat soldiers; "The Messenger" concentrates more on its effect on the loved ones waiting at home.
Ben Foster, who was so excellent in "3:10 to Yuma" and "Six Feet Under," exceeds even those achievements as Sgt. Will Montgomery, an Iraq War soldier recovering from grievous physical and psychic wounds who receives the unwelcome assignment of notifying the survivors of soldiers killed in action. Making the assignment even harder is Capt. Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), a hard-nosed military lifer who commands Montgomery to stick to the script: never touch a survivor, and never express more than the most perfunctory sympathy. Stone, a recovering alcoholic, has his own problems: a veteran of the First Persian Gulf War, he never saw any combat worth the name, and suffers a world of guilt he tries to hide by playing the martinet and chasing every skirt he sees. Meanwhile, Montgomery, who has been jilted by his high-school sweetheart (Jena Malone), starts to develop feelings--totally against the rules--for a young military widow (Samantha Morton).
Featuring sharp dialogue and brilliant performances (including one by Steve Buscemi as the father of a fallen soldier), "The Messenger" is a powerfully moving cinematic experience.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best modern war film I've seen,
The Messenger is the story of Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery, played by Ben Foster, a wounded soldier who has returned to the base and is placed on the notification team until the time of his discharge. Colonol Dorsett, played by Woody Harrelson in his best performance to date, shows him the ropes. The two are an unlikely duo, and despite both being combat veterans (Dorsett in Desert Storm), this assignment provides a very different stress. The two soldiers are on call every hour of every day. When a soldier dies, they race to notify the family before they hear about their love one's death somewhere else. Given their unique jobs, they spend more and more of their time together even when they're not working.
The extended supporting cast members of this film are amazing. Their notifications are met with a variety of results, as we all process grief and shock differently. The supporting actors and actresses have one scene to deliver their messages of despair and grief. The film is a fascinating look into the human psyche, and it's the best war movie I've ever seen. It's a deep, thoughtful, uncomfortable look at the effects of war on individuals. Woody Harrelson was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but I'm surprised Samantha Morton was not nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
The Messenger is not always an easy film to watch, but it's well worth the time. It's not a movie I want to watch over and over again, but it a film I will buy and watch once every year or two. Mostly, I'll pass along my dvd to anyone who will watch it. Everyone has jumped on The Hurt Locker bandwagon, but The Messenger is a better film. It's smarter, more nuanced and a more fascinating look at this war. I was surprised when it wasn't nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. There's no question it is one of the five best films of the year.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a potent and deeply emotional drama,
This review is from: The Messenger (Amazon Instant Video)
The Messenger is a superbly crafted film that shows us an aspect of war we don't often see on the screen--the military duty to give a "casualty notification," which means they have to inform next of kin that their relative died while serving in the military. Just as others have said, this film is neither anti-war nor pro-war; it examines this single aspect of war, a horrendous consequence of war that no one can deny. The cinematography and the choreography are wonderful; and I am very impressed with the largely improvised scenes in which people are told their relative died. In addition, the script was wonderful and the casting couldn't have been done any better.
When the action begins, we meet Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) who has been injured in Iraq; his left eye and one of his legs were wounded and it's not at all certain that he will fully recover his sight in that eye and the complete use of his leg. Will has three months stateside to finish his enlistment; and he is consequently assigned to "a sacred mission" by Colonel Stuart Dorsett (Eamonn Walker): informing next of kin that their relatives have died while serving in the military. Especially because Will has no training in this field, Colonel Dorsett assigns Will to work with the tough as nails and by-the-book Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) so that Tony can show Will the ropes. At the same time Will has the bitter disappointment that his now former girlfriend Kelly (Jena Malone) has left him for another man while he was in Iraq.
We soon see that casualty notification isn't easy. Tony and Will get spit at, slapped in the face and more when the next of kin gets the bad news; their reactions are hard just to watch but it's all very realistic. However, one newly-widowed woman, Olivia (Samantha Morton) remains relatively calm and she instantly strikes Will as being remarkable; and gradually Will and Olivia develop a relationship that is strictly against military policy. Tony, of course, is against this although he can relate to Will's need for a woman; and while all this goes on Will's relationship with Tony develops in unforeseen ways as well.
The plot can go in several different directions from here but I don't like to give spoilers--I don't want to ruin it for you! However, I must say that Woody Harrelson gives a brilliant performance as Captain Tony Stone and Ben Foster plays his role very well. Look also for a solid performance by Will's old girlfriend Kelly (Jena Malone).
The DVD has some extras; there is an optional running commentary with director and co-writer Oren Moverman, Lawrence Inglee, Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson; and the "Going Home" brief featurette with the principle actors and filmmakers discussing the film is excellent. There's also a short film that has interviews with real life people, not actors, who have lost relatives in Iraq or Afghanistan and what their experience with casualty notification was like for them.
The Messenger seems rather overlooked and underrated as a motion picture and I'm not sure why this is. It deals very honestly with the human pain and suffering that go hand in hand with the horrific consequences of combat fighting in war. I highly recommend this film for anyone who wants to see a very high quality, timely film about war and people who like the actors in this film would do well to add this to their collections, too.
58 of 76 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Contrived tale of Army Casualty Notification Unit,
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The job of notifying next of kin by the Army Casualty Notification Unit is an extremely sensitive one. Such a job is not entrusted to just anyone in the military--you have to undergo significant training before you're assigned to such a specialized unit. That's why it's hard to believe that Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) would be thrust into the job when he only has three months of enlistment time left. What's more, would the Sergeant have been chosen since he's only recently come back from Iraq and may have been traumatized there? As for his training, his commanding officer, Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), merely throws a training manual in his lap and expects him to learn the job as they go along.
To confess, I'm a bit biased against movies such as 'The Messenger' because I find characters who like themselves to be vastly more compelling and believable than those who don't. In general, characters who don't like themselves are dull and rarely add to the dramatic flow of the narrative (can you imagine a sad-sack Tony Soprano ever capturing the public's imagination?). The strategy of the Messenger's scenarists is to start us off with the two angst-ridden soldiers, Montgomery and Stone, and eventually show how they redeem themselves by overcoming their depressing background and circumstances.
Montgomery is basically a putz who can't accept the fact that his former girlfriend has dumped him and is now engaged to someone else (how many sad-sack soldiers do you know who would actually show up at an ex-girlfriend's wedding intoxicated and wearing unwashed military fatigues?). The implication of course is that somehow, due to being traumatized in Iraq, he would end up acting that way. The contrived wedding scene is designed to show Montgomery at his lowest moment--after acting in such a boorish manner, he can now redeem himself by lending a helping hand to Olivia (Samantha Morton), the widow who he recently notified that her husband had been killed in action.
Similarly, Captain Stone also has self-esteem issues. On the surface, his by-the-book demeanor masks a deep self-hatred. This is manifested in his constant skirt-chasing and avoidance of any meaningful relationships with women. The basic question arises: would the Military actually have put someone like Captain Stone in charge of an Army Casualty Notification Unit (i.e. someone so broken and negative?). I would suggest that such a negative character is a complete exaggeration anyway, designed merely to create dramatic scenarios where none would exist truly in reality. But even if such a character existed, he would probably be the last chosen by the military to head a Casualty Notification Unit.
It takes a good deal of time before the central conflict comes to a head between Stone and Montgomery. And that is basically Montgomery believes in being a little more sensitive when notifying the next of kin as opposed to Stone who wants to follow 'procedures'. That's about the essence of the conflict between the two principals and when they finally confront each other, it's not much of a payoff. The sub-plot involves Montgomery trying to start things up with Olivia--his decision to not make the moves on her is designed to show that he's a 'good guy' after all and through his efforts to help her, shows that he's attained a measure of redemption.
The Messenger also consists of various scenes in which the next of kin are notified of the deaths of their loved one's. Given the variety of the people we meet, it's probably the most interesting aspect of the film. Steve Buscemi's performance is probably the most notable (for better or worse) of these characters, where he strikes Montgomery after being notified about the death of his son, and later offers a rather predictable apology.
I've read that the men and women who perform the job of the Casualty Notification Units are dedicated, trained professionals who by the nature of their employment, must set an example by living lives of great integrity (unlike the two troubled malcontents in 'The Messenger'). The contrived characters of 'The Messenger' do nothing to enhance the reputation of these specialized units; rather, their opposition feels artificial, contrived, all part of a plot artifice that calls for the type of conflict one might expect to see in the movies but never in real life. While I have no doubt, 'The Messenger' was meticulously researched as to how these Notification units operate, it still feels like it was written by an outsider. 'The Messenger' might have gotten many of its 'facts' right, but unfortunately I could not believe I was watching a story about real people.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Acting, Flawed Story,
Going into this movie, I expected to love it. Rave reviews, Oscar nominations, an interesting topic - what could go wrong? Quite a bit, unfortunately. First though, the positives. I think why so many people loved this movie is due to a few very powerful scenes. The moments of grief when family members learn of their loved ones death is hard to watch - it's so real and well done. Since you cannot just watch a movie where that happens over and over again, you have to develop a story around that - and that's where the problems come in. Ben Foster plays a soldier who is recovering from massive combat injuries. He is given the "safe" job of accompanying a more experienced notification officer (Harrelson) as an apprentice of sorts. Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster turn in two very touching performances in a movie that ultimately is not deserving of their talent.
Where the movie veers into "are you kidding me?!?!?!" territory is when the young soldier starts to develop a relationship with one of the women he notifies of the loss of her husband. I won't spoil anything, but if you think the movie is going to justify both of their actions, you may be let down. A lot of the film is just an uncomfortable mess. Maybe that's the message we're supposed to be getting - war is messy - but well, I get that, I didn't need a movie to come along and tell me. So while a few scenes are definitely extraordinary, this movie is bogged down by ludicrousness to the point that I cannot recommend it as a whole.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully observed and realized human drama,
You think your job`s bad? Imagine being Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), whose duty it is to deliver death notices to the families and loved ones of soldiers killed in action. With just three months of active duty left before he's honorably discharged from the service, this decorated war hero has been placed under the tutelage of Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), who's been doing this sort of thing for so long now that it has become almost - but not quite - routine. Things become complicated, however, when Will becomes romantically attracted to Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morgan), one of the young widows to whom he relates the shattering news. But the real focus is on the conflict and uneasy friendship between the by-the-book, struggling alcoholic Stone, who harbors a certain degree of guilt for never having actually served in battle, and the moody, sensitive, and slightly shell-shocked Will who's seen more blood-soaked action than he cares to think about. Yet, neither is a stereotype, for each is a complex individual dealing in his own way with the traumatizing effects of war - be it on the home front or on the field of battle.
"Less is more" is the defining principle of "The Messenger," a vivid and powerful movie that understands that there is often more drama in what is left unsaid than what is actually spoken. Everything that occurs in the film seems to happen beneath the surface, as each of the characters tries to put up a brave front even when lives and souls are being torn asunder right before their eyes. Screenwriters Oren Moverman and Alessandro Camon are not afraid to give each scene its due, even if that means letting it play out at great length or having the characters fumble in their efforts to articulate what it is they're trying to say. The emotions are raw and complex in this film, and Moverman's elegiac direction does full justice to the seriousness of the subject. He allows his characters the dignity of space, yet is never so detached from them as to render them objects of curiosity or pity. It's an impressive debut effort for the obviously gifted Moverman.
The scenes in which the two men deliver the news to the various loved ones are staged and executed brilliantly, beautifully capturing the manifold ways in which people deal with sudden tragedy. Particularly effective is Steve Buscemi's devastating cameo turn as a father who can't accept the reality of his son's death and, thus, strikes out at any convenient target as a means of channeling his rage.
Foster and Harrelson deliver breathtaking, perfectly calibrated, award-worthy performances, and they are matched every step of the way by a first-rate cast of supporting actors who never resort to grandstanding in the brief moments they appear on screen.
The one false note occurs when the two drunk officers crash the wedding party of Will's former girlfriend (played by Jena Malone, the young version of Jodie Foster in "Contact"), but it is a minor weakness in a film that earns each and every one of the tears it asks its audience to shed. And for a movie in which death plays such a central role, "The Messenger" still manages to affirm that emotional and psychological healing, though a long and painful process, can actually be achieved in the end.
Without a doubt, one of 2009's best films.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-See that will stay with you forever,
This review is from: The Messenger [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
If you saw Black Hawk Down and The Hurt Locker you might have gotten an idea of modern warfare - what the Soldiers are going through on a daily basis. Although Hollywood made, these films do not glorify the violence or the people; they just get you there.
Of course watching a movie - that is any movie - is nothing close to the real thing. But at least some films try to transmit an accurate picture of the situation, including the angst, shock, anger, and demonstrate the professionalism that so often is the Soldiers' only way out.
This one takes the war home, into the living rooms of the family members, lovers and children of the men and women who will never return.
No guns or battles, just pain and shock - but just as dramatic as the two previously mentioned. And just like them it shows us a part of the war most of us don't know anything about. Magazine articles, TV news and what not - nothing comes close to the scenes we're shown here where families are destroyed and lives forever changed.
I feel we need to watch this, each and every one of us, so we better understand the next time we talk about war.
Without the Army's framework, Woody Harrelson's character would probably have ended up on the wrong side of the road. Married three times, AA, frustrated about having missed out on the real battle experience, it's his job to deliver the horrible message. He get's Ben Foster put to his side as a partner. A War-hero with his own demons to fight.
Sure, this is a fictional tale, with the characters' personalities adding to the drama. But with the excellent camera work and the fabulous script the story hits home from the first scene on.
And when you think it's boring to watch these men deliver their message over and over again - think again. These two actors - and the others - are perfectly cast with each of them delivering award worthy performances of the highest order.
The Blu-ray comes packed in a plastic-free box and includes the dvd version on a separate disc. Another plus: the disc loads and there are no disturbing commercials or other previews messing with the experience. Press play and the film "rolls".
The picture is crisp and very detailed. A few night scenes lack depth in the blacks (didn't disturb me much) but all in all it's a great disc.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Think you should cry, but cant,
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This review is from: The Messenger (Amazon Instant Video)
This movie is good. Seeing it once is plenty. The subject is so significant though. The topic is heavy. The acting is wonderful. I kept thinking I was going to cry, but the momentum of the movie never develops that 'tear jerker' element. I can see how it got Oscar nods.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A serious film about a serious subject,
Now playing on cable, this 2009 film held my interest, saddened me and showed me a point of view I had never thought of before -- that of the soldiers whose job it is to inform the next of kin that their loved ones are dead. This is a serious film about a serious subject and it is all done with a sensitivity that makes it all too real.
The film stars Ben Foster as an American soldier wounded in Iraq who has just been released from the hospital and has a few months left to serve out his term of enlistment. His new assignment partners him with career officer Woody Harrelson, (who won an Academy Award nomination for this performance). He teaches Foster the ropes of how to deal with their uncomfortable and important assignment. It is their job to personally deliver their sad message to the next of kin in person before the death has been made public. They show up at the person's place of residence. Often, just their presence is message enough. But sometimes they have to spell it out. It is always a heartbreaking experience. And it takes a toll on the messengers as well.
Harrelson is a fast talking loudmouth recovering alcoholic; Foster has not quite recovered from his emotional and physical wounds which include eye problems. Together they form a bond and, as the film progresses, their back stories come out. Foster's former girlfriend has left him for another man. Harrelson talks a lot of military talk but there is doubt that his exploits really happened. And Foster finds himself attracted to a young widow with a child who he has just informed that her husband is dead. Little my little the plot becomes more complex and the characterizations deepen.
Although the film is quite depressing, it makes some important points. I enjoyed it with the one criticism that it dragged on just a wee bit too long for my taste.
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The Messenger [Blu-ray] by Oren Moverman (Blu-ray - 2010)