The Messenger opened the 12th Savannah Film Festival with a bang: a sellout crowd, international press, and Hollywood stars Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster in attendance to rub elbows all night. Even without the glitz, though, Savannah was a smart place to screen the Iraq drama. Oren Moverman's film is a character study about a soldier (Foster) dealing with the aftermath of war, but like Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq film The Hurt Locker, it's about the personal toll Iraq leaves on soldiers who survive and the families of those who don't; the politics of war are hardly an issue. And so, in a city that supports two military bases and the men and women who serve them, The Messenger played like gangbusters.
Foster stars as William Montgomery, a recent Iraq returnee dealing with serious leftover issues and a new assignment to play out his final three months of service: informing families that their loved ones have been killed on duty. As Montgomery's partner, Harrelson provides moments of levity, but there were plenty of sniffles throughout the film just the same.
While it was pretty easy to figure out what the general consensus was, there were three figures in particular I was watching for a reaction – the only three uniformed soldiers in attendance, who may or may not have been connected to the production. (The film has been screened for military personnel, and Harrelson and Foster personally met soldiers at Hunter Army Airfield prior to the night's screening.) When asked what military folk have thought of his film in the post-screening Q&A, director Moverman deferred to one of the officers in the audience to share his reaction with the crowd. What follows is the unnamed soldier's impromptu review of The Messenger.