"The Messenger" stars Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton. It's a small independent film, but it makes a big statement. Foster's character, Will, has three months left on his tour of duty with the Marines. He returns from Afghanistan after an IED has taken part of his squadron and injures him. Will's commanding officer assigns him the duty to notify the next of kin when a Marine is killed. More than the duty itself, Will is apprehensive of his instructor played by Harrelson.
During his three month stint, Will meets Morton's character who is newly widowed. She is only in about five scenes, but will break your heart in every one. Notification is not always a dignified affair and "The Messenger" doesn't spare the audience worst case scenarios. It does the opposite of larger-than-life Hollywood blockbusters, making art by reflecting our own humanity. There is no gorgeous cinematography. Instead of foggy lakes and pretty girls, the weighted visual is merely a man's shirt on a clothesline.
Films are based on setting, plot and character. The setting here is anywhere U.S.A. and the plot is languid, taking us not on a great journey but a thoughtful tour around the block. What is left is character and all the actors do it justice in this revelatory film. The greatness in a scene with an unexpected apology isn't in the action and words but the stillness and silence. Within these characters, the film shows us the character of our own society - both how we treat fallen veterans and the ones who come home.
--Cindy F., Headquarters