Thursday, March 04, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: The Messenger

Number of Nominations: 2 (Best Supporting Actor - Woody Harrelson, Best Original Screenplay)
Availability in the US: None, Available for DVD Pre-Order

Remember when I said that Up in the Air's Ryan Bingham had the worst job in the world? Well, I take it back. The Messenger follows Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), recently injured in the Iraq War, who gets reassigned as a Casualty Notification Officer and must go to the homes of fallen soldiers to inform their next of kin that they were killed in battle. Captain Tony Stone (Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson), a seemingly hardened Desert Storm veteran and master CNO, is tasked with training Montgomery. Montgomery and Stone clash as Montgomery faces an ethical dilemma: he's started to fall for one of the widows he notified.

Woody Harrelson as the "recovering" alcoholic captain is exceptional. In perhaps his best dramatic performance ever, Harrelson has mastered everything from the accent to the affectations. We can see Stone is a man who takes his job seriously and his life less so. The character's emotional climax is as real and raw as anything in film this year.

The screenplay of The Messenger is an intriguing concept which is almost fully realized. Exploring the lives of two people with such unenviable and yet important jobs is a fascinating twist on war films; while many films before have followed the next of kin of deceased soldiers, I've never seen one which followed the lives of the notification officers. The only thing the script lacks is a clear direction. It veers wildly off point several times and never really comes to a resolution.

Grade: A-

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