Tuesday, August 17, 2010

REVIEWFLIX: The Messenger (2009)

(Kind of cheated on this one since I didn't watch it through netflix but the my recent purchase of it. Thought I would still include it under this though since it is available instantly on netflix.)

The Messenger is a smaller film from last year that was one of my favorites. I have been meaning to revisit it for a while but kept putting it of till I broke down and added it to my collection recently.

The Messenger tells the story of recently returned, from Iraq, soldier Staff Sergeant William Montgomery (Ben Foster) and his new assignment in the Army's causality notification service. Paired up with Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), to learn from the best the film, they proceed due their duty and inform soldier's loved ones of their deaths. From the very first time we see them in action, however, the difficulty and toll of this job become apparent.

Telling the side of the war we to often glance over in the newspaper without a second thought, this film delivers a hard hitting and much needed emotional punch to the face. Every time they deliver the a death notice it becomes abundantly clear the real cost of and war, and how unprepared everyone is for it. Oren Moverman, co-writer and first time director, gives the viewers a powerful and affecting film (and message) that remains impartial to any one political leaning. The themes and message of this film are almost out shown though by the brilliant acting of all those involved.

Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson both deliver what is arguably the best performances of their respective careers. In supporting roles Samantha Morton and Steve Buscemi also potray convincing characters as family members of the deceased. Couple all this with great stylistic choices such as going to hand held cams when they deliver the news and brilliant use of light and shadow in Will's apartment, this one is a complete film to me.

I gave it a 5 out of 5 when I originally saw it and this second viewing has only added to my enjoyment of the film. Although this screening was infinitely more comfortable in my own home, (Advice: Never see a film in the second/back up screen at The Music Box Theater in Chicago, while they show excellent films the set up is akin to metal folding chairs in front of a big screen tv) I recommend seeing it in a theater if you ever get the chance.

Just as a little aside and plug for the company, this film was the first film I saw by my favorite fiilm distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories. Headlined by Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys this company continues to pick some of the best smaller features or independent films out there and market them with the same creative passion in which they were made. Although I still haven't seen a lot of their films, the ones I have seen are phenomenal with this film and Dear Zachary particularly standing out and I am anxiously awaiting DVD or nearby theatrical releases of The Exploding Girl and I Knew It Was You. If you get the chance, check out their films. You are bound to find a few you will love, and a lot of them are streaming instantly on netflix for you to watch right now. And to you DVD collectors out there all of the ones available from them are on par with Criterion Editions, so be sure to pick up a few.


  1. Go to http://creativescreenwritingmagazine.blogspot.com/ and scroll down to find an interview with the writers (or just DL from here: http://media.libsyn.com/media/creativescreenwritingmag/TheMessengerQandA.mp3)

    I haven't listened to it but this guy does some great interviews with writers.