Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Messenger (2009)

THE MESSENGER, directed by Oren Moverman, had been on my watchlist for a long time and I wanted to see it before the director's second film, RAMPART. 

Everyone likes UP IN THE AIR, right? The two movies are similar in a way. Where UITA had Kendrick playing Clooney's protege on a mission of sacking people from their jobs, this movie has Woody Harrelson's character Stone mentoring Ben Foster's Montgomery on a task of informing family of departed American soldiers about the death. Montgomery is highly decorated for his age and is hailed as a hero by his superiors for what he did in Iraq. Stone, who was stationed at Kuwait, is a recovering alcoholic and has been sober 3 years, but has never seen action. Deep inside, both men hide secrets and the face they put up may not be real.

Stone lays the ground-rules which include talking only to the closest kin, never using phrases like 'has left us' or 'is no longer with us', abstaining from physical contact with the relative among other things. Informing a father about his son's death is really a hard thing to do, but I assumed nothing would go wrong if they stuck to their rules. I was proved wrong over and again on all of the occasions. It is really hard to predict how a person will react to such a news. Most people flip out. This is a painful job and I wonder what the folks at Indian Army do about it. Do they simply make a phone call? I don't think so. That makes this movie very universal. 

On one instance, a visibly shaken widow of a fallen soldier shakes their hands and thanks them saying it must have been hard on them as well. This is a first, says the cynical Stone who notices a man's shirt on the clothesline and immediately judges the woman. Montgomery, new on the job, ends up being emotionally involved with the woman, helping her out and learning about her life. Filled with great performances, the film fills you with dread every time they approach a new family. You just hope that they find solace. You just hope that everything will be okay.