Oren Moverman's directorial debut "The Messenger" tells the story of Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) and Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), a seasoned Captain and a younger Staff Sergeant respectively, who have fought in Iraq and are assigned to the Army's Casualty Notification service and must deliver the news of diseased soldiers to their loved ones. An ethical dilemma arises when a romantic connection forms between Montgomery and a new widow played by an always stellar Samantha Morton.
An Israeli screenwriter and former journalist -- as well as a combat veteran of the Israeli army -- Moverman co-wrote Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan biopic, "I'm Not There," and has taken up the subject of the presence of those who are absent. The performances in "The Messenger" are intense and the writing does a classically good job of procuring a complex perspective in a moody reflection on detatchment. Harrison's affability is put to good use as a protective layer, and Foster offers a career-defining portrayal of a serious soldier, simultaneously raw and quiet.
If the truth of war is the cloud that hangs over those who have experienced it first-hand and those who empathize, Moverman's approach is particularly sensitive in his exploration of the gap between the duty of officers to present objective, unemotional facts in a situation that begs for counsel and screams of anguish and anxiety. A great deal of drama exists in the sheer restraint of both the characters and the screenplay, and the film offers a wide range of textures and experiences in a subject that many audiences might, deep down, feel an honest sense of fear and lonlieness towards.
Moverman's approach is moving, mature and most importantly, opens a necessary dialogue. The film premiered at Sundance this year and had its international premiere at The Berlin Film Festival where it picked up the Silver Bear for best screenplay and the Peace Award.
In theatres now.