David M. from WALKERTON, IN Reviewed on 8/3/2012...
OK, so maybe this is not terribly realistic in the portrayal of the people who must perform these difficult tasks in real life. It is still a good movie.
Hopefully many of us will not have to receive a visit from casualty notification so we have no idea of knowing if this is how it really is, or isn't.
Most (military) stuff in movies is total BS anyway. If you have never served you will not know the difference. It is simply entertainment value so it serves the purpose.
It is still a sad and powerful film. True, the two main characters would probably not be chosen for this significant duty in real life but they do perform admirably.
Woody is crazy (as always)and Ben Foster does well as his (wounded) accomplice.
Worth a look.
Lewis P. (Turfseer) from NEW YORK, NY Reviewed on 8/24/2010...
Contrived tale of Army Casualty Notification Unit
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The job of notifying next of kin by the Army Casualty Notification Unit is an extremely sensitive one. Such a job is not entrusted to just anyone in the military--you have to undergo significant training before you're assigned to such a specialized unit. That's why it's hard to believe that Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) would be thrust into the job when he only has three months of enlistment time left. What's more, would the Sergeant have been chosen since he's only recently come back from Iraq and may have been traumatized there? As for his training, his commanding officer, Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), merely throws a training manual in his lap and expects him to learn the job as they go along.
To confess, I'm a bit biased against movies such as 'The Messenger' because I find characters who like themselves to be vastly more compelling and believable than those who don't. In general, characters who don't like themselves are dull and rarely add to the dramatic flow of the narrative (can you imagine a sad-sack Tony Soprano ever capturing the public's imagination?). The strategy of the Messenger's scenarists is to start us off with the two angst-ridden soldiers, Montgomery and Stone, and eventually show how they redeem themselves by overcoming their depressing background and circumstances.
Montgomery is basically a putz who can't accept the fact that his former girlfriend has dumped him and is now engaged to someone else (how many sad-sack soldiers do you know who would actually show up at an ex-girlfriend's wedding intoxicated and wearing unwashed military fatigues?). The implication of course is that somehow, due to being traumatized in Iraq, he would end up acting that way. The contrived wedding scene is designed to show Montgomery at his lowest moment--after acting in such a boorish manner, he can now redeem himself by lending a helping hand to Olivia (Samantha Morton), the widow who he recently notified that her husband had been killed in action.
Similarly, Captain Stone also has self-esteem issues. On the surface, his by-the-book demeanor masks a deep self-hatred. This is manifested in his constant skirt-chasing and avoidance of any meaningful relationships with women. The basic question arises: would the Military actually have put someone like Captain Stone in charge of an Army Casualty Notification Unit (i.e. someone so broken and negative?). I would suggest that such a negative character is a complete exaggeration anyway, designed merely to create dramatic scenarios where none would exist truly in reality. But even if such a character existed, he would probably be the last chosen by the military to head a Casualty Notification Unit.
It takes a good deal of time before the central conflict comes to a head between Stone and Montgomery. And that is basically Montgomery believes in being a little more sensitive when notifying the next of kin as opposed to Stone who wants to follow 'procedures'. That's about the essence of the conflict between the two principals and when they finally confront each other, it's not much of a payoff. The sub-plot involves Montgomery trying to start things up with Olivia--his decision to not make the moves on her is designed to show that he's a 'good guy' after all and through his efforts to help her, shows that he's attained a measure of redemption.
The Messenger also consists of various scenes in which the next of kin are notified of the deaths of their loved one's. Given the variety of the people we meet, it's probably the most interesting aspect of the film. Steve Buscemi's performance is probably the most notable (for better or worse) of these characters, where he strikes Montgomery after being notified about the death of his son, and later offers a rather predictable apology.
I've read that the men and women who perform the job of the Casualty Notification Units are dedicated, trained professionals who by the nature of their employment, must set an example by living lives of great integrity (unlike the two troubled malcontents in 'The Messenger'). The contrived characters of 'The Messenger' do nothing to enhance the reputation of these specialized units; rather, their opposition feels artificial, contrived, all part of a plot artifice that calls for the type of conflict one might expect to see in the movies but never in real life. While I have no doubt, 'The Messenger' was meticulously researched as to how these Notification units operate, it still feels like it was written by an outsider. 'The Messenger' might have gotten many of its 'facts' right, but unfortunately I could not believe I was watching a story about real people.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jeremy A. from REISTERSTOWN, MD Reviewed on 5/18/2010...
Considering the subject matter I actually found it less depressing than expected. This story has a lot of heart and is very well acted. If it sounds interesting at all I am certian you will appreciate this movie.
Why is this film overlooked by critics and awards?
Ron | Berkeley, CA USA | 01/21/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With the exception of Woody Harrelson getting nominated for Best Supporting Actor, THE MESSENGER has not been getting the attention that it deserves from the critics and awards. This is the film that should've been nominated for Best Picture (Drama) by the Golden Globe Awards. This is the film that should've been nominated for Best Picture by the Broadcast Film Critics Awards. With the exception of the Independent Spirit Awards, THE MESSENGER is being grossly overlooked. I think it may be because it is not released by a major distributor. And it is overshadowed by THE HURT LOCKER. To tell you the truth, I have seen both films, and I'll take THE MESSENGER over THE HURT LOCKER anyday. THE HURT LOCKER was more suspenseful, but THE MESSENGER did a much better job examining the human condition from both the soldiers and the civilians' point of view. In a way it reminded me of a contemporary version of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT because it depicted the horrors of the war, and the effects that it had on both the soldiers and their loved ones. I highly recommend this film. It is one of the best films of 2009. One last thing--it is about time Woody Harrelson wins an Oscar for his performance as an actor. He is incredible in this film."
Timeless, powerful, deeply moving.
Miles D. Moore | Alexandria, VA USA | 12/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seldom seen a more moving or seamless antiwar film than Oren Moverman's "The Messenger." Its Iraq War theme makes it absolutely up to the minute, yet its portrayal of the raw grief that war creates echoes throughout human history. In some ways, "The Messenger" serves as a companion piece to Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker." "The Hurt Locker" portrays the effect of the Iraq War on combat soldiers; "The Messenger" concentrates more on its effect on the loved ones waiting at home.
Ben Foster, who was so excellent in "3:10 to Yuma" and "Six Feet Under," exceeds even those achievements as Sgt. Will Montgomery, an Iraq War soldier recovering from grievous physical and psychic wounds who receives the unwelcome assignment of notifying the survivors of soldiers killed in action. Making the assignment even harder is Capt. Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), a hard-nosed military lifer who commands Montgomery to stick to the script: never touch a survivor, and never express more than the most perfunctory sympathy. Stone, a recovering alcoholic, has his own problems: a veteran of the First Persian Gulf War, he never saw any combat worth the name, and suffers a world of guilt he tries to hide by playing the martinet and chasing every skirt he sees. Meanwhile, Montgomery, who has been jilted by his high-school sweetheart (Jena Malone), starts to develop feelings--totally against the rules--for a young military widow (Samantha Morton).
Featuring sharp dialogue and brilliant performances (including one by Steve Buscemi as the father of a fallen soldier), "The Messenger" is a powerfully moving cinematic experience."
The best modern war film I've seen
Carrie LaGree | Albany, NY | 03/04/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Messenger is the story of Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery, played by Ben Foster, a wounded soldier who has returned to the base and is placed on the notification team until the time of his discharge. Colonol Dorsett, played by Woody Harrelson in his best performance to date, shows him the ropes. The two are an unlikely duo, and despite both being combat veterans (Dorsett in Desert Storm), this assignment provides a very different stress. The two soldiers are on call every hour of every day. When a soldier dies, they race to notify the family before they hear about their love one's death somewhere else. Given their unique jobs, they spend more and more of their time together even when they're not working.
The extended supporting cast members of this film are amazing. Their notifications are met with a variety of results, as we all process grief and shock differently. The supporting actors and actresses have one scene to deliver their messages of despair and grief. The film is a fascinating look into the human psyche, and it's the best war movie I've ever seen. It's a deep, thoughtful, uncomfortable look at the effects of war on individuals. Woody Harrelson was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but I'm surprised Samantha Morton was not nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
The Messenger is not always an easy film to watch, but it's well worth the time. It's not a movie I want to watch over and over again, but it a film I will buy and watch once every year or two. Mostly, I'll pass along my dvd to anyone who will watch it. Everyone has jumped on The Hurt Locker bandwagon, but The Messenger is a better film. It's smarter, more nuanced and a more fascinating look at this war. I was surprised when it wasn't nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. There's no question it is one of the five best films of the year."
A Must-See that will stay with you forever
Andre Heeger | Germany | 05/16/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you saw Black Hawk Down and The Hurt Locker you might have gotten an idea of modern warfare - what the Soldiers are going through on a daily basis. Although Hollywood made, these films do not glorify the violence or the people; they just get you there. Of course watching a movie - that is any movie - is nothing close to the real thing. But at least some films try to transmit an accurate picture of the situation, including the angst, shock, anger, and demonstrate the professionalism that so often is the Soldiers' only way out.
This one takes the war home, into the living rooms of the family members, lovers and children of the men and women who will never return. No guns or battles, just pain and shock - but just as dramatic as the two previously mentioned. And just like them it shows us a part of the war most of us don't know anything about. Magazine articles, TV news and what not - nothing comes close to the scenes we're shown here where families are destroyed and lives forever changed. I feel we need to watch this, each and every one of us, so we better understand the next time we talk about war.
Without the Army's framework, Woody Harrelson's character would probably have ended up on the wrong side of the road. Married three times, AA, frustrated about having missed out on the real battle experience, it's his job to deliver the horrible message. He get's Ben Foster put to his side as a partner. A War-hero with his own demons to fight. Sure, this is a fictional tale, with the characters' personalities adding to the drama. But with the excellent camera work and the fabulous script the story hits home from the first scene on. And when you think it's boring to watch these men deliver their message over and over again - think again. These two actors - and the others - are perfectly cast with each of them delivering award worthy performances of the highest order.
The Blu-ray comes packed in a plastic-free box and includes the dvd version on a separate disc. Another plus: the disc loads and there are no disturbing commercials or other previews messing with the experience. Press play and the film "rolls". The picture is crisp and very detailed. A few night scenes lack depth in the blacks (didn't disturb me much) but all in all it's a great disc."