Welcome to the next installment of ‘Indie Dive’, a series that delves into the recesses of the independent film world and pulls out a gem. Each Indie Dive column spotlights a lesser known indie film, hopefully convincing you to add it to your film queue. Part two of the Indie Dive series brings you The Messenger.
If you’ve ever seen a US war movie where a soldier dies, you are probably familiar with the tell-tale scene of the dark car approaching the house of his/her spouse, mother, or other next of kin; the knock at the door; and a conversion that often starts with “I’m sorry…”. In most films, the officers tasked with delivering this tragic news are not the focus of the scene, and are only there for mere moments. You’ve probably never given them a second thought. Well, The Messenger puts these officer’s experiences at the forefront of the narrative.
More specifically, the film follows U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (played by Ben Foster) as he returns from war in Iraq, and is assigned to be a casualty notification officer with Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) as his partner. After notifying a woman of her husband’s death, Will develops a complicated relationship with her.
The writing and acting are superb. Woody Harrelson received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for his performance (in the best supporting actor category), and the film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars.
At times, The Messenger is difficult to watch, but in the best possible way. I am always looking for films to make me uncomfortable in their confrontation of the truth, and when the opportunity arises, I urge myself to stare directly at that which may be painful. The film does a great job of drawing its audience into this draining job and challenging you to carry the characters’ burdens as you navigate the film.