The Messenger

The Messenger

(MA) Madman DVD/BD

Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) is back at home and recovering from injuries both seen and unseen. He is assigned to spend his last few months in the military as a member of the Army’s Casualty Notification Team.

Having never given or received grief counselling, Montgomery feels unqualified for the task. But he quickly learns from his superior (Woody Harrelson) that the job is succinct. Under no circumstances do you touch the next of kin. Notify. Express official condolences. Get in and get out.

Dealing in patriotism, sacrifice, heroism, and love, The Messenger could easily be suffused with melodrama and cliché. Instead, the movie manages to be emotionally charged without being saccharine. It’s unflinching in the face of grief but stops shy of making a voyeuristic spectacle of the raw pain these official visits trigger.

The same deft footwork is shown in the way the characters are drawn. The screenplay by director Oren Moverman (I’m Not There, Married Life) gives Montgomery a complexity and intensity that is a quieter-but-no-less-intense companion to The Hurt Locker.

The Messenger involves difficult subject matter but it’s not hard to watch. It’s sad and sobering, but also humorous and touching in turns ¾ a moving exploration of the hidden, personal costs of war.

Adrian Drayton

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