by Del Harvey
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Like other recent war films The Hurt Locker and Stop-Loss, director Oren Moverman’s The Messenger is a story about how soldiers must live with the psychological devastation caused by living through combat. This is an outstanding work from first-time director Moverman, who has done an excellent job of presenting the post-war tale from a fresh angle as he creates a truly impressive character study that is subtle and deeply moving.
And it is the cast which truly excels thanks to Moverman’s in-depth character analysis film. Focusing upon survivors of the Iraq War, this film’s setting is the suburbs of America, a locale that Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) finds just as daunting as the battle field as he struggles to adjust to the just as horrible duty of informing families of their family member’s death in combat. Playing his tough-as-nails mentor Tony is the superb Woody Harrelson, who is constantly advising his young protege to “stick to the script.” But expecting our young “messenger” to remain true to the formula is all but impossible when fate decrees that Will fall for sweet-as-pie war widow Olivia (Samantha Morton). Never too good at sticking to the norm, our story eventually reveals itself as something far more complicated than love blooms.
The Messenger is a moving and at times darkly comical human portrait of friendship and love. It releases on DVD and BluRay Tuesday, May 18.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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