Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Messenger (2009)

There's a show on TLC or Discovery Channel or one of those called "Dirty Jobs" where the host spends a day doing various jobs most of us would balk at like cleaning up after pigs, going into sewers, and so forth.  One job you'll never see him do is also one of the dirtiest jobs imaginable:  informing a soldier's family about his/her death.

This is the dirty job assigned to Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) when he returns from Iraq after being wounded in a fire fight.  Though Will really doesn't want to do the job, he doesn't have much choice about it.  So off he goes with Lt. Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) to deliver the bad news to a soldier's family.  Stone gives him the rules, such as they park a block or so away so the family can't see them pulling up, they don't wait around for next of kin to appear, and they never EVER touch the next of kin.

The first time he delivers the bad news himself, Will is nearly attacked by a grieving father (Steve Buscemi) but keeps his cool.  The next time around he and Stone visit the house of a woman named Olivia, who seems to take the news far better, which is actually creepier when you think about it.  When someone gets this kind of news you expect them to be angry or start screaming, not to thank you and keep folding the laundry.

Will finds himself drawn back to Olivia and starts helping her fix up the old car and taking care of things around the house.  If this were a Nicholas Sparks-type romance they'd fall madly in love, making out on some secluded beach and going back to her place to do more than that.  Instead, "The Messenger" remains grounded more in the real world, where both Will and Olivia have trouble coming to grips with the traumas in their lives.  This doesn't make for happy viewing, but it does make for more thought-provoking viewing.  (Though I thought the scene between them in the kitchen goes on for an uncomfortably long time.)

Besides this there's also a burgeoning friendship between Will and Stone.  It's not because they have much in common other than their job so much as they both don't really have anyone else.  Their friendship culminates in a drunken escapade that they're very lucky doesn't land them in the stockade.

When I watched "Brothers" I commented that someday someone would make a really good movie about soldiers coming home from Afghanistan.  With "The Messenger" I think we're far closer to that.  It's a little slow and it's definitely not happy, but at the end of the day it reminds you that the horrors of war aren't limited merely to the battlefield.

That is all.

My score:  87/100 (3.5 stars)
Metacritic score:  78/100 (3 stars)

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