The Messenger

The Hurt Locker was the popular
Iraq war movie last year. So popular it won Best Picture (which I personally believe it did not deserve). But a much smaller film about the exact opposite side of the war was made, and that film was The Messenger. The Messenger had much more heart than The Hurt Locker and could be arguably better.

 

The Messenger is about Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) who is assigned to the unit in the army were they must deliver the bad news of loved ones dying in combat. He has a mentor Captain Tony Stone (played by “The Man” himself, Woody Harrelson). The two, overtime, begin to bond a relationship like none other. There is a side plot, which displeased me very much so, about Will having a little fling with a widow of a soldier, she’s played by Samantha Morton.

 

The film was the directorial debut of Oren Moverman, and an impressive one it is. Oren wrote one of my favorite films of 2007, I’m Not There, the exploration of Bob Dylan through many different actors. A fantastic film to say the least, rich with plot and stylish direction. Now with that being one of his previous films I can only hold so much excitement in to see this genius at work behind the camera, and he does a great job.

 

First let’s talk about the camera work. You know, nothing really special happens camera wise until the scenes were they must deliver the message. Then the camera work gets up close a personal. In all scenes but those, it’s text-book directing, with a little pizzazz every now and then. Long shots, slowly zooming, far shots, and mostly stationary shots, that’s important. But in the delivery scenes the camera is emotional and intense. The scenes in the first place are emotional and intense, but the camera adds just enough flavor to make it 100%. It’s not shaky cam, but it is active cam, constantly in motion and switching between actors, and walking around the room. It’s amazing camera work.

 

Oren also knows the story well (he wrote it) which helps him as a director. He knows how the characters are supposed to feel, their goals, what he wants out of the actors. He controls this movie well. He knows how to utilize his actors, and what tricks to use and when. If someone else wrote it, or someone else directed it, I don’t think this would have worked out as well as it did.

 

The acting was, strange, to say the least. Nothing to spectacular, but nothing less then exceptionally good. Ben Foster, to me at least, seemed a little…flat. Like he didn’t play the part right. I think a much more talented actor was needed, not saying Ben Foster isn’t talented, because he is. But maybe a more experienced actor; an actor who has been in a role similar to this one. He just didn’t show emotions, was that the character?  I don’t think so. He didn’t show his emotions at the right times, or showed them at the wrong times. It just was a very mixed performance, but by the end of the movie it seemed like he figured it out and it got better.

 

Woody Harrelson has been getting all the buzz though (I mean why not? He is the man). He got nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Though I think Woody did a good job, he was nowhere near Oscar worthy, didn’t even deserve the name. It was entertaining to watch Woody work, considering (I’ve said it at least 3 times now) he’s the man. I really do love Woody, he’s been in so many great movies, and so many of those were better, more deserving of the Nom, performances. Like in White Men Can’t Jump, Natural Born Killers, even Zombieland, and definitely deserved the win for The People vs. Larry Flynt. OK, maybe not Zombieland, but still! Harrelson did the same thing over and over in the movie, so I’m supposed to be impressed? I don’t think so. The supporting cast just didn’t do anything memorable; it’s not even worth mentioning.

 

The Script was written by Oren Moverman and Alessandro Camon. This film doesn’t really have a plot, it’s more like a greatest hits collection of saddest moments when delivering the news that a loved one is dead. All the scenes are really intense, sad, and emotional, and crafted very well. But the rest of the movie is just kinda eh. The relationship between Foster and Harrelson is great, showing them slowly connecting with each other is a treat. But the story fails in the fact of the side plot love story, I didn’t care and the people I watched with also didn’t care. Also the ending was very atrocious, it wasn’t very ambiguous, which many will call it, and I love those kinds of endings, but this just kinda made me mad.

 

This is a very very very powerful drama and it’s hard to handle. It’s worn down by Fosters’ stiffness, Harrelson’s repetitiveness, and the darned side plot.

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