Arts & Entertainment

Writer/director discusses emotion behind war movie 'The Messenger'

There were three great films about the Iraq/Afghan-istan conflicts in 2009: Brothers, The Hurt Locker and writer/director Oren Moverman's The Messenger.

Of the three, The Hurt Locker is getting the most attention but The Messenger, which follows two soldiers charged with giving families the bad news of the death of a loved one in combat, ranked higher on my 2009 top-10 list and hits home the hardest.

Gary Wolcott: As with all wars, Hollywood is digging a little deeper into these two conflicts. What are you trying to say with your movie?

Oren Moverman: It is about calling attention to the people that have to live with the consequences of the decision to go to war. The lives of people going to war are affected every day. It is our responsibility to talk about it and to do something about it, to make sure these issues are not forgotten.

On another level, there's a lot of pain, there's a lot of grief. We all experience this one way or another. People we love die. We get told about it or we have to tell other people about it. How do we live life feeling these feelings and going through these hardships?

GW: We all see the statistics but unless someone we know is killed in action, they are tragic but somehow not real.

OM: We all know these people. They're not that far away from us. This is about the emotional battlefield happening right now in our country.

GW: How do you write something like this? Did you interview soldiers and families?

OM: The truth of the matter is we are all familiar with the feeling of getting bad news about someone we love and who is no longer with us. We (co-writer Alessandro Camon) were immersed in the emotion. That's what writers do. You write the emotion and hope to God when you do it on set that emotion will be found and expressed in a way that will make it really powerful.

GW: Woody Harrelson got the Golden Globe nomination but Ben Foster gave the most impressive performance in my book. The guy is a phenomenal actor.

OM: He put a lot of heart and soul into this performance. He is a tremendously talented actor, writer and future director and I gave them a lot of freedom to find new things and to express themselves. There was a lot of trust between us and it became obvious in the process of creating new things.

GW: From Ground Zero to the credits rolling, The Messenger moved me. It's a very important story to tell. What a hard job that must be.

OM: It has been done thousands and thousands of times over the last eight years. This gives you a different perspective when you read in the paper that someone was killed. Now you can add the component of the next step.