*Written and directed by Oren Moverman, this peripatetic buddy flick focuses on death and grieving, the unfortunate fallout of the ugly business that is war.
The story revolves around Army Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) and Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), soldiers assigned the thankless task job of informing next of kin that their loved ones have perished overseas on the field of battle.
Steely Stone understands the rules of engagement, especially the one about no fraternizing with vulnerable widows. But Will must have kept his fingers crossed when he made that pledge, because he has a hard time following protocol after delivering the grim news to Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morton) that her husband has perished.
He offers her a shoulder to lean on, and it’s not long before the suddenly-single ravishing beauty spreads her love, allowing the smitten enlisted man to enter the Forbidden Zone.
Will figures “All’s fair in love and war,” after all, his high school sweetheart (Jena Malone) didn’t have the decency to wait for him to return from Iraq. As for Olivia, her unseemly behavior is readily explained by the fact that everybody mourns differently, and there’s just something irresistible about a man in a uniform.
The only fly in the ointment is the stoic Stone, a by-the-book stick-in-the-mud who decides to make his immediate inferior’s life hell on account of the indiscretion. Woody Harrelson earned an Oscar nomination for his inspired performance, here, and Ben Foster proves equally-deserving playing his compromised and conflicted counterpart.
A powerful, PTSD PSA for “Don’t ask, don’t kiss and tell” advocates.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and nudity.
In English and Spanish with subtitles.
Running time: 112 Minutes
Distributor: Oscilloscope Laboratories
DVD Extras: A documentary about the notification of the families of fallen soldiers, audio commentary by the director, the producer, Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson, an essay by Marine veteran-turned-scriptwriter Anthony Swofford, the shooting script, Variety Q&A with the director, the producer, the scriptwriter and cast members, a featureete called “Going Home: Reflections from the Set.”
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To see a trailer for The Messenger, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MEApxjYncI