War Equals Death and Grief
The Messenger valiantly brings all wars to their ultimate endpoint: death and its effects on the fallen's loved ones. Ben Foster plays Army Staff Sergeant Montgomery and Woody Harrelson is his superior, Capt. Stone. They're assigned to Casualty Notification duty, which is just as it sounds -- they notify the next-of-kin of unbearable news. The scenes that dramatize these moments are raw, powerful, and unpredictable, and are as bare a reminder as possible that no matter what any war is about, these are the only results that have true, unavoidable meaning.
The film must have a plot, of course, so it focuses on Sgt. Montgomery, whose tour in Iraq had left him a hero, though he does not agree. Angry, bitter, and emotionally isolated, Montgomery's new duties slowly lead him to relocate his repressed humanity. Along the way, Capt. Stone also opens up. The film starts out strongly, with the scenes of the officers doing their job and Stone showing his charge the ropes; and intriguingly, as Montgomery starts to follow -- and fall for -- the one next-of-kin (Samantha Morton) who takes the news in a relatively gracious manner.
However, The Messenger wanders as it reaches the end, becoming similar to other films showing the traumatic effects of war on those who have returned to the homefront. The story is ultimately personal, though I find that simply having this presentation of war equaling death and grief hits home much harder than anything else in the movie. (Capsule review)
(Released by Oscilloscope Pictures and rated "R" for language and some sexual content/nudity.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.)