Starring an up and coming actor, Ben Foster, and Hollywood veteran Woody Harrelson, The Messenger takes you through the motions as a soldier, three months away from governmental freedom, is trained to make the most brutal of house calls. The emotions, terrors and uncertainty that lies within one of the force's most difficult jobs is nothing short of eye-opening, but it is the effects of life away from combat that sends chills up and down your spine.
Still, none of this would matter without the striking performance from Ben Foster. Fully encompassing his role as Will, the trainee, Foster sets the matter straight from the get go. Emptied out of emotions, he carries a stern, listless attitude, going through the motions. He is embarrassed to be doing 'safe' work, leaving behind his comrades in Iraq, delivering their fateful news rather than fight by their side.
On the other side of the spectrum, Woody Harrelson portrays Tony, a veteran in the practice. His demeanor, intimidating and stern, screams for your respect. As a result, you believe him to be an officer as he diligently walks up to the house, delivers the lines and exits with little to no reaction. His role is purely that of a mentor, secondary to Will, and his performance personifies that as he is constantly overshadowed by his younger counterpart. However, together they are a strong tandem, feeding off one another throughout.
But sadly, for all the film does right, it still hits a major roadblock in the form of pacing. Tackling such a heavy subject, director Oren Moverman and company had to be on top of their game in order to sell both the story and the message. Fortunately, they did just that for nearly 90 minutes of the film. Regretfully, that leaves 20 unattended to. During that stretch, the film falls off the wagon as the story screeches to a disruptive halt, sending audience members into a sedated state of unconsciousness.
Luckily, the stint wasn't overbearing as it didn't distract from the film's overall message, allowing the viewers to exit the theater with appreciation for what they had just seen. Still, it could have been better, and for a movie that is set on presenting a new, unique approach to an overexposed subject, that is a sad disappointment for all involved.