Though The Messenger shows no actual combat or scenes of fighting, it would seem to be in the vein of some of the anti-Vietnam movies of say, Oliver Stone and such, showing an alternative way how war messes up people.
The Messenger is also a largely unlikeable film, being also difficult to watch and now, to review. A messenger in this sense is someone who has to knock on next-of-kin's doors and inform them that their son/daughter has been killed in action. Reactions, unsurprisingly are mixed and unpredictable.
Naturally, this requires a special type of person to handle such and in military captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), who's been decorated but also in A.A., we find a flawed and angry man. Taking on a younger new recruit, Staff Sgt Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) there's the obvious clash of experience and outlook and the even more inevitable buddy type of hanging out together.
Unfortunately for us, both men seem to like to resort to thrashing out heavy metal and punching the walls as a means of coping with the pent up frustrations that the job's rigid rules around emotion and self control insist upon. This makes it all jarring and unsettling, which may well have been what director Oran Moverman wanted. This is Moverman's first film and is reasonably accomplished.
There is some very welcome support from two of the world's finest character actors - Steve Buscemi and Brit Samantha Morton. They play father and wife, respectively of two entirely different men killed in Afghanistan and their characters feature big in the emotions of our two leads. Morton as widow, who Foster helps but fortunately (for both the film and us) does not get too emotionally involved, is probably the easiest role to both like and believe.
The Messenger is a well acted, reasonably well directed film but one that is also quite long. As I said, I didn't find it particularly enjoyable and as such, cannot readily extend to four stars.