Mr. Movie

'Messenger' delivers heavy, must-see message

In war, soldiers die. That’s an awful reality.

We all know this and sympathize with the families that lose loved ones. For most of us, though, the losses are just statistics. A faceless name on the page of a newspaper. It’s tragic but not personal.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

The Messenger makes it personal. And it is uncomfortable. Well-done movies about the tragedy of war and its impact on ordinary lives are that way. Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma) and Woody Harrelson star as a team assigned to deliver the tragic news that a loved one has been killed in action.

This job has rules. It’s business. It’s impersonal. You find the family and deliver the lines of a script. It’s an “I’m sorry, ma’am” or “I’m sorry, sir,” and you’re done. Others will come soon to comfort and explain. Turn and go.

Rarely do you see a tandem performance this powerful. Foster and Harrelson play troubled men stuck with what has to be the worst assignment in the world. For Harrelson’s Tony Stone, it is just a job to be done by the numbers. Foster’s Will Montgomery feels the pain personally.

Both men battle inner demons and private, though less tragic, losses. Each struggles to find that place of peace in the universe.

Harrelson is getting most of the accolades and has the Golden Globe nomination, but it is Foster that will impress you most. He’s an intense young actor with incredible range and power. Foster makes you feel every ounce of this man’s pain. At times, it is overwhelming.

There is much power in writer/director Oren Moverman (He’s Not There) and co-writer Alessandro Camon’s script. It covers uncomfortable, unexplored ground.

Their story is intense. Emotional. You will battle to control the tears. Guaranteed. Even more importantly, The Messenger will stay with you long after you leave the theater.

Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars

Rated R for language, mature themes. It opens Friday, Jan. 8 at the Carmike 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.