Wednesday, March 2, 2011

THE MESSENGER

Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Samantha Morton


HBO




The US Army's Casualty Notification Service is in charge of informing the next of kin that their relatives have died while serving her/his country in Iraq. The bearer of this extremely sad news has strict instructions on how to deliver this unfortunate information as well as how to handle the grieving relatives.

In this poignant film, this task falls squarely on the shoulders of Capt. Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) a seasoned 'messenger'. Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) a young soldier who was wounded in Iraq and sent home has now been assigned to this Service. Sort of an apprentice to Capt. Stone, Will soon finds out first hand about profound grief and anguish as expressed by the relatives who are told the bad news. After informing Olivia (Samantha Morton) of her husband's death, Will finds himself attracted to her. And as Olivia, Will and Tony pick their way through the delicate situation, all three are forced to deal with emotions they had become used to hiding.

Woody Harrelson who was nominated for this role delivers a subtle yet very effective performance. His characterization of Capt. Stone is a mixed ball of emotions. Stoic as he bears the news yet he also has quite a temper. A recovering alcoholic, it was probably his coping mechanism to escape from the stress of delivering bad news.

But kudos must also be given to Ben Foster. This young actor who I first saw in the TV series "Six Feet Under" has always been impressive in most of his subsequent roles. Here, you must not be deceived by his boyish looks as Staff Sgt. Will has been through a very harsh tour of duty in Iraq. He is scarred and his spirit is broken as most of the young soldiers who experience battle in conflicted areas are wont to be.

The film is a moving and human reflection on the costs of war, and a deeply respectful look at the work done by the armed forces, both overseas and at home. It isn't a political film nor is it necessarily an anti-war film. It's just about the legacy left behind, for those that fight it, and those who patiently wait for their return. Unfortunately, loss is inevitable in both cases.

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