Review #12 – The Messenger
Life can be inexplicably dark at times. All of us hit that time where we are at a low point; sometimes it is set into action by an event or chain of events, other times it is just for no other reason then simply “just because”. With the light times comes the dark. And by no means was this film light.
Set in an unspecified area of the US, Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) has been rotated out of active duty due to his injuries sustained in the course of battle. Reassigned to pair with Capt. Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) his new assignment is to read the script, and deliver the news to NOK’s (next of kin) that their soldier husbands/sons/daughters will not be coming home. Within this announcement, there is no offers of comfort allowed – simply an announcement and then they are on their way.
Dark and heavy, the writing task with this is no easy feat. The script in itself does some heavy lifting – even approaching such a terribly strong topic is heartbreakingly difficult. I simply feel emotionally drained just watching it – writing it, living every word in your mind before it makes it onto paper would be such and exhausting task that I cannot even comprehend it. 2 Main characters (Montgomery and Stone) gradually peel back layers hidden under combative soldiers, and expose the true men underneath; the vulnerable and compassionate, the lonely and the begrudging. You get the sense that as different as they might be, the more similar they actually are.
Oliver Stone once said of Woody Harrelson (Just before casting him in the role of Mickey Knox in “Natural Born Killers”) that Woody has an “inherent sickness to him”. There is a level, always brewing right under the surface that makes him seem like a slight sociopath – always knowing how to say the right thing at the right time. The was a decent role for him, giving him more depth as a person then I have seen from him in a long, long time. I fall back to comparing him to his character of Larry Flynt in “The People vs. Larry Flynt” where his character evolved, transformed, was deep, and he was wholeheartedly behind it. As Capt. Stone, he did a very solid job – but not spectacular to the point of and Oscar win.
When you sit back to watch this film, be ready. It might take you places your not ready to go. It might be heavier then you need to go, and it might leave you flat on your back afterwards. All that being said – sometimes you need to visit the dark places in life just so you can truly appreciate all the light around us.