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A Fitting “Message” for Memorial Weekend

05/29/2010

The Messenger is a movie that got lost at the box office; it grossed just over $1 million.  The universally panned Sex and the City 2 did that by noon Friday.  Nominated for two Academy Awards and a Golden Globe, the film came up empty.  It was noticeably absent on many critics top of 2009 lists, but with a million gross, who’s to say they even saw it?

Woody Harrelson, Captain Tony Stone

Ben Foster, Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery

The budget was miniscule, estimated at $6.5 million, but the production values were huge.  The characters were not that, but were people, and were portrayed brilliantly with A-list talent Woody Harrelson, Steve Buscemi, Samantha Morton, Jena Malone and an actor’s name who you don’t know, but should, Ben Foster.

Direction was of the auteur level.  I mean that in the true sense of the word.  The auteur theory holds that film should reflect the director’s vision and experiences.  First-time helmer, Oren Moverman, is a combat veteran of the Israeli army, and he deftly captures an authentic emotional trueness in each of the characters.

This isn’t intended to be a plot summary or even a review, but a characterization of the affectivity this movie captures and elicits and how apropos it is for this Memorial Day Weekend. Without spoiling, a decorated war veteran is assigned to a “casualty notification team,” which is basically a euphemism for the worst job ever.

This movie was every bit the slice-of-life war film that The Hurt Locker is, and more.  Messenger’s war centers on post-combat battles, more palpable than any portrayed amid landscape of sand and explosions (with all due respect to Ms. Bigelow).  Where as we, as civilians, are disassociated with the Locker protagonist, we become engulfed with this movie’s heroes, two “messengers” who are slowly killing themselves with the messages they deliver.  However, the film’s most emotional moments come from the recipients of the notifications.  If you’re eyes don’t well up in those scenes, you’re either childless, soul-less or both.

Don’t get me wrong… this is not the “feel good hit of the summer,” but the emotional aesthetic of this film rings truer than church bells.  How this picture got overlooked at the ticket window is beyond me.  It’s an excellent film and is so moving that outspoken peace activist, Woody Harreleson, “was almost longing for combat” after the role.

So, if you truly want to remember your fallen heros this weekend, stop by a Red Box and pick-up a copy of The Messenger.  But if the plot is too heavy, or it harshes anybody’s weekend mellow,

don’t kill the… well,  you know.

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