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The Messenger [Celluloid Hero]

Celluloid Hero film strip


The Messenger (2009)

Imagine being faced with telling someone that their loved one has passed away. Imagine telling them the loved one was young. Imagine telling them they died a violent death. Imagine doing it over and over and over.

“The Messenger” follows the lives of two soldiers given the task to notify next-of-kin when a member of the Army dies. Captain Stone (Woody Harrelson) has been performing this duty for years, while Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) is the rookie. Montgomery was on duty in Iraq when he was injured, and this job is given to him by a commanding officer upon return to the States.

There are some tried-and-true moments of the grizzled veteran trying to teach the greenhorn, and the new guy disobeying the rules set out. At time’s it is predictable, but the rest of the movie and the surrounding plot is fascinating.

The parts of the movie dealing with the actual moments of delivering the news are heart-breaking. Stone explains the tact that must accompany the actions; timing, location, choice of words, facial expressions and body language, all these things need to be precise. During all of the scenes involving the notifications, I felt very uncomfortable. When a movie can affect me physically like that, it’s definitely something impressive.

The director claims there is no political slant to either side of the spectrum; he wanted to profile the people, not the politics. I can see a bit of a bias from my eyes, but each person’s viewing experience may differ. Personally I’ve always been a “anti-war, pro-troops” person. You may not like the message, but don’t shoot the messenger.


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On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “The Messenger” gets an 8 out of 10.

Celluloid Hero Varacchi


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