The Messenger, written and directed by Oren Moverman who is a veteran of the Israeli army, is a movie that tells the story of two soldiers assigned to the Army's Casualty Notification service.
Staff Seargant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) has just come home, injured, from Iraq. He's often referred to as a hero for what he did in Iraq (what he did isn't clear until the end of the movie). When he get's assigned to his new position, he isn't exactly excited about his new role with the military.
You can understand why, I mean can you possibly imagine having to go to a family and bring them the news that their son/daughter, brother/sister, boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife has been killed in action? Even if you get through the first time, imagine having to do it over and over and over again. Could you remain calm when a father blames you for the loss of his son? When he say's it should have been you and not his kid? When he spits in your face? Could you keep your composure when a mother and father break down to the point of becoming physically ill after you tell them their child won't be coming home again? It takes a certain person with certain traits to do the job and do it well. Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), who shows Will the ropes because he's been doing it for years, says there's no scenario you can walk away from and tell yourself "job well done." It just doesn't work that way. Do everything by the book no matter what, don't make physical contact with the next of kin. Will clearly takes it more to heart than Tony, at least on the surface. His instinct is to make a personal connection, even if it can lead to trouble and difficult moral choices.
Both men have their own issues to deal with, their own demons, their own life complications. When Will left for Iraq he had a girl back home. Kelly (Jena Malone) has moved on to a new man but clearly still has a connection to Will. That becomes clear in a very revealing way early in the movie. Will also doesn't really have a family to call his own so part of his struggle is trying to find that connection with someone. He's not over Kelly and that leads to some very uncomfortable moments in the movie (some of the best also). He becomes very connected to Tony but is he really the man Will thinks he is? There's also a strong connection to Olivia (Samantha Morton), a new widow who Will meets on the job.
The movie is powerful, emotional, gut wrenching and very touching. It's a movie you go into knowing that crying is a very distinct possibility. You don't expect to have many laughs but that's where it surprises you. There are humorous moments and that's what's very neat about the movie. It offers you more emotionally than what you are expecting.
Foster is fantastic and so is Harrelson. Harrelson is nominated for Actor in a Supporting role at this years Oscar's and you can see why. I don't know if he's going to win it but it would be hard to argue against him if he did.
The movie was released back in November and came to Green Bay yesterday (March 5th). Go and see it while it's here, it's very good.