This is the directorial debut of Oren Moverman, best known perhaps, for penning the screenplay of the arthouse film Jesus Son. The Messenger certainly stacks up against Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar winning war epic The Hurt Locker as one of a new breed of films discussing war and the fallout from it, in a modern context, not just on the traditional battlefields of the past.
Ben Foster, is outstanding as Sgt Will Montgomery, an Iraq war hero, who is injured in the line of duty and then assigned back in the US, to inform the families of dead soldiers of the fateful news of their own tragedies. His new assignment falls under the instruction of Senior commanding officer Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) a recovering alcoholic.
True this all sounds incredibly depressing, but there are light touches, using Harrelson's practiced comic timing to great effect. And the introduction, half way through, of the widow Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morton) as the love interest for Will creates another layer to the film. Showing a level of intimacy rarely since these days in love stories. The scene in the kitchen, (you'll know it when you see it) in which the lovers touch for the first time is breath taking in it's simplicity and truth. Oren Moverman obviously trusts his actors and seems to allow them ultimate freedom. In this scene particularly he places the camera in such a way that you almost feel like a peeping tom invading the couple's private moment.
The film does get slightly lost in the second act when Harrelson and Foster go (for no discernible reason )on a mini road trip. It meanders abit at this point, but stick with it, there is some comic relief and Moverman gets the film back on track for a positive and powerful ending.
To end the film there is a final wide shot of Olivia's house with an open door and her son playing just outside. Olivia and Will who have been talking in the foreground go inside. The beauty of the final shot as a piece of storytelling is that so much is suggested about Will's future. That by walking through this open door, new possibilities appear and Will may finally find love and renewal, after all he has been through.