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Monday, December 21, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW
The Messenger
Training Days Of Pain, Emotion And Entanglement


Woody Harrelson as Captain Tony Stone and Ben Foster (background) as Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery in "The Messenger".  Oscilloscope

By Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Monday, December 21, 2009

Oren Moverman’s “The Messenger” is the best film of 2009.  A story about two U.S. military grief officers who have the grim and unenviable task of notifying families of their loved ones’ loss of life in Iraq, this superb effort has not a moment of manipulation to offer its audience.

Woody Harrelson’s masterful performance as rigid rule-enforcer Captain Tony Stone keeps Mr. Moverman’s brilliant feature film-directing debut crackling.  Stone takes in new recruit Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (excellent work from Ben Foster) as his accompanying officer on his rounds to the families of the fallen.  One of Stone’s rules is that the next-of-kin not be touched in any way.  The delivery of the extremely painful news must be handled with bloodless dispatch and without a hint of emotion.  Lines will be blurred, resolve will be tested and restraint will be most difficult, but above all what transpires will be unforgettable.

“The Messenger” isn’t a war movie or even a political statement; it’s an important film about sacrifice and empathy for both the receivers and the givers of the bad news from the theater of war.  The film is also about the code of conduct surrounding grief and how Americans dissimilarly situated grapple with it.  Adult, direct and always intelligent, its economical storytelling (script by Mr. Moverman and Alessandro Camon) is equally crisp and shattering.  Lines of dialogue in one particular scene are especially resonant, leaving an impact that is powerful and real. 

Samantha Morton is amazing as Olivia Pitterson, who has lost her husband in Iraq.  The complexities of her character are fascinating.  There’s sensuality and honesty to Olivia, enhanced by the unselfish way Ms. Morton shares the screen with the other actors.  She, Mr. Foster and Mr. Harrelson all richly deserve Oscar nominations for their work.  Completely credible, Olivia is integral to the film, directed with such confidence by Mr. Moverman that it’s astonishing this is his maiden voyage behind the camera.  Each scene has something to say or leaves something unsaid.  Each scene makes you think.  Every scene is so well acted.

“The Messenger” is a riveting film that is entirely absorbing.  Recent films like “Brothers” work harder but Mr. Moverman understands that a simple approach to depicting drama and the impossibilities of the human heart delivers more profoundly than many established film directors ever could.

“The Messenger” is now playing across the U.S.  The film opened on November 13 and continues to expand to numerous additional American cities.


“The Messenger is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for language and some sexual content/nudity.   The film’s duration is one hour and 36 minutes.




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