FILM RATING: 3 stars
With Netflix on-demand internet streaming on my bluray player, I get the opportunity to watch some great new release indie movies like The Messenger (2009). This finely crafted story about two Army officers who notify next of kin of the death of a solider is a surprising addition to the growing collection of Iraq/Afghanistan war movies. I know the press and Hollywood like to talk about how these recent war movies of the last decade aren’t making a big box office splash like Saving Private Ryan (1998) or Pearl Harbor (2001) did, and yet these films keep getting made and finding an audience. And I’m definitely a member of that audience. I don’t think any of them are as good as Saving Private Ryan or the other great WWII movies of the last 15-20 years, but these wars are different and the movies reflect that. WWII will probably never be matched in its clarity and power of story. Hitler was such a perfect black-and-white villain, whereas the Iraq and Afghanistan wars really have no “clear” villain.
The Messenger stars Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster, both giving some of the best performances of their careers. Harrelson was rightly nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a damaged army officer in this film. First time director Oren Moverman has mad a nice first film. I really enjoyed the first half of the film as it built up emotionally, but I felt that the second half just drifted away without enough focus on plot. It’s definitely a film worth seeing for the good cinematography (as evidenced by the still images below that I captured from the trailer) and the great acting.