Sunday, June 20, 2010

DVD Review: The Messenger

Okay this isn't technically a DVD review since I watched it on Netflix Instant, but same idea.  I really wanted to see Woody Harrelson's Oscar nominate performance, as well as see another Original Screenplay nominee.  Writing something original is the more impressive part.  Harrelson has been stepping up his game lately with excellent supporting roles (I liked him in No Country For Old Men) so I was expecting a lot, and for the most part he delivered, but this was the year of Christoph Waltz so he didn't get much attention - all the supporting actors this year are also-rans.  The Messenger is about an army Staff Sergeant, Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), who has returned from the war with some minor injuries - a vision impairment, and some healing wounds - and of course the requisite survivors guilt.  He doesn't say much, and plays music loud and sits in the dark because the light hurts, and doesn't react much when he finds out his girlfriend is engaged to someone new.  His is partnered with Harrelson for his last few months in the service as part of the team that notifies family members when a soldier is killed in action.  Harrelson has been doing it for years, and has seen a lot, but admits he hasn't seen everything.  We see them notify a few families who all have different reactions. Steve Buscemi spits on Foster when he's told his son is dead.  They also know the sight of two soldiers arriving is usually bad news so they usually walk from a distance rather than park right outside.  One of the newly widowed women (Samantha Morton) has a particularly odd reaction, she says it must be really hard for the soldiers to notify people and thanks them for coming.  This touches Foster, and he sort of haunts her (almost, but not quite stalking) and they become friends.   We see a very different non-solider side of Foster where you can see why he might have joined the army in the first place, rather than the man he has become. 
Overall, the movie is really good.  It has the indie vibe of not needing to tell you everything about everything, and a very limited score, with most things routed in reality.  Also, the requisite graphic sex scene shocks you right at the beginning but then the rest of the movie is tame in comparison.  The writing and dialogue are terrific, and fairly expertly delivered.  Foster is slowly moving up the ranks (in a similar fashion to Ryan Gosling, whom I love) and will be headlining huge movies someday.  Harrelson is carving out a terrific career in supporting characters that might sustain his career well.  Samantha Morton also plays the grieving widow who never really wanted anything to do with the military so is having conflicting emotions all over the place (grief her husband is gone, relief that she has a life of her own now, and new feelings for Foster).  She's scattered, but believable. 

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