The Messenger

DRAMA; 1hr 52min

STARRING: Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, Samantha Morton, Jena Malone

Heartbreakers: from left, Harrelson and Foster

With three months left to serve, Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Foster), freshly scarred from a tour of duty in Iraq, is assigned to the US Army’s Casualty Notification unit. His blunt, unprepossessing partner, Captain Tony Stone (Harrelson), doesn’t look to be the welcoming sort, and in any case, Stone wants no part in cleaning up the random mess of death.


The families’ stormy response to heartbreaking news isn’t a fight that Montgomery has been trained for. One woman (Morton as Olivia) is different, however, gracious even in crushing defeat. Montgomery, who has been fooling around with an old, otherwise committed, girlfriend (Jena Malone), is drawn to her. The rulebooks don’t allow that, but you sense he tends to operate from outside the frame.


The impact of The Messenger, directed by former Israeli soldier Oren Moverman, builds from its pall of repression. Montgomery and Stone are stiff with a shield of formality that barely contains their underlying hurt and anger. Yet in the camaraderie that develops between them lies the promise of a vital second chance, both despite and because of the men they have become.