Sunday, March 14, 2010

"The Messenger" (2009) - Movie Review

The psychology of a soldier returning from war gets one more treatment and it has a maturity to it. The young man Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) shows a level headed man in trouble. He has done his duty well and gloriously as he is hailed as a hero by his head. He is recovering from an injury which might have permanently damaged his eye sight. He can see but he clears it off with an eye drop, reminding him the deadly incident he will confess in the film. He is paired up under Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) to serve the Casualty Notification Service of the Army. They are messengers of the worst news possible for the deceased’s loved ones.

Ben Foster expressed his confidence in clearing a character out of the park in “3:10 to Yuma” along able actors Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. He is the wounded man and recuperating from the incident back in the war. He lives alone and his childhood sweetheart has moved on with another man, though she offers an obligatory welcome sex. This is Kelly (Jena Malone) and as much as Will knows the reality of these circumstances, the ritual of being nice stops him from the burning agony and loss.

Oren Moverman co-wrote this script with Alessandro Camon and directs it with acting as the punch line. Woody Harrelson is the tough and arrogant Captain resembling the stereotype of hard army man but then he twists him off as someone with being human. The old school army tactics of rough men going numb on emotions are there but this is a modern world which acknowledges the sensitivity of any men. He is perfect on this job. Go knock the door, read the script, stand there and never offer human contact with the NOK (Next of Kin) is his mantra.

When these men knock the doors, the day, the time and the circumstances are not usual. There is a father erupting on this unfair war played subtly and aptly by Steve Buscemi and another father realizing her daughter is married through the death. The anger transforms into consoling and everything changes. This is unpredictability in changing lanes of reactions and then there is Olivia (Samantha Morton). She knows why they are here and shakes the hand. She is dangerously calm and treats the men with some unusual empathy on the nature of their job. This gets the fragile mind of Will.

“The Messenger” is not a film taking situations easily for the screenplay. The attraction of Will towards Olivia is not something new but these are two actors behaving as the real people and a debut director with a more sense on the people’s ability to be tempted and not act. Will begins to get himself acquainted with Olivia and they both obviously are very close in kissing each other and swap their losses. And there is the moment when things are bound to happen and these two actors as the people deliver a thrill in drama of what they will or will not do before the scene gets over.

Woody Harrelson has been these offbeat actor coming on the lines of comedy and goofiness. He was delightful in “Zombieland” but he is capable of going full on as he did in “People Vs. Larry Flint”. The Tony Stone he portrays is a slipper slope in terms of redoing things set by the Hollywood war dramas. Still he invents something new out of this man. He is not a complete jerk realizing the social inhibition but a genuine man whose mannerisms and characteristics are such so. He is considerate when he needs to be and thus forms a n understandable and noble friendship with his much younger but wiser Will. In terms of Ben Foster, it is getting more and more clear of his capability being the promising actor he has been.

“The Messenger” might come off as the usual war drama but do not put that off in the enthusiasm to see it. There are performances tactful and precise to keep you on the toes of what the reaction they might pull. There are some thoughtful lines and characters who do not come as emotional basket cases but as some common people behaving out of their experience in their pure instinct. This is good acting and a great screenplay.

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