Just when movies about the war in Iraq had exhausted audience interest, this summer's sleeper hit The Hurt Locker came along. And just when those same audiences thought there was only one movie about Iraq that could resonate with them, The Messenger comes along. Starring Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton, the film is not only a revelatory look at the war's logistical repercussions stateside, but an examination of the emotional toll not only battle but survival takes on soldiers, culminating in a poignant tale of redemption that counts as one of the very best films of the year.
Foster (3:10 To Yuma) plays Will Montgomery, a staff sergeant more or less waiting out his last days as a military officer after an extended tour of duty in Iraq. Although he initially (and understandably) reluctant to participate when he is enlisted to inform families of the deaths of their loved ones, he bonds with his superior officer, Tony Stone (Harrelson), and slowly emerges from his own emotional morass as a result of reaching out to these grieving families. But when he and Tony inform a mother named Olivia (Morton) of her husband's death, he becomes inextricably involved in her and her son's life, realizing that the tenuous relationships he previously participated in are no substitute for something more meaningful.