Assigned to a Casualty Notification unit, Sgt. Will Montgomery (Foster) is paired with disillusioned captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson). When he becomes close with the wife of a serviceman killed in action, Foster is faced with the fall-out of crossing an unspoken line.
Despite grabbing two Oscar nominations, this directorial debut from Israel-born screenwriter Oren Moverman has languished on the UK distribution shelf for nearly two years. True, it’s no multiplex popcorn premise: locked-down US Army Captain Stone (Woody Harrelson) and his on-edge Sergeant, Montgomery (Ben Foster) notifying families of loved ones killed in action. Yet, gradually, The Messenger reveals a softer, more human film underneath. Montgomery starts a faltering romance with bereaved mother Olivia (Samantha Morton), while the two soldiers establish an awkward, endearing relationship. Shot through with a hazy morning light, buoyed by remarkable performances, The Messenger never really hangs together, but drifts with a dreamlike sadness that’s somehow suited to its characters: a broken, good-hearted film about broken, good-hearted people.
A worthy addition to the canon of Iraq war films, The Messenger has a gentle humanity that creeps under your skin. Look out for a terrific Harrelson turn, too.
Reviewed by Andrew Male