Friday, June 4, 2010

The Messenger. B+


When I first saw Ben Foster as the loyal, cutthroat Charlie Prince in James Mangold's '3:10 to Yuma,' I thought to myself: here's a guy who can act. But due to the nature of Foster's character, I wasn't sure if he had much range. Not to worry. 'The Messenger' proves that he does. In the movie he plays a wounded solider named Montgomery who has just three months left to serve. Due to his condition, he gets positioned back in America as a messenger-a soldier who goes around to doors and reports the deaths of family members who have died in service. This is an overlooked job, but, as the movie shows, just as trying and emotionally tragic as being in combat. Foster flawlessly plays the role of an angry, multi-faceted solider. The important thing about the performance is that it's unpredictable. His emotions are often shifting, which I assume is a result of his experience in Iraq. Still, as good as Foster is in this, most people would probably point out the performance by Woody Harrelson as the movie's finest. He plays Montgomery's stern, uncompromising partner and he's the one who earned the Oscar nomination over Foster. Yes, Harrelson is really great in this, but he's proven before that he's a great actor. For Foster, this is his chance to show that he can give a complete performance, and by succeeding, I think he deserves the most praise. The acting in this movie is pretty much perfect, but unfortunately the rest of the movie is not. The problems aren't huge, but they're definitely discernible. First of all, I found that most of the death reports were over-dramatized. I know the movie wanted to emphasize the tragedy, but in real life I'd think it would take a little longer for the grief and anger to sink in. Another problem comes during the final twenty minutes when the movie really starts to drag. The main characters go fishing, get in a fight, crash a pre-wedding party, and then wake up in the woods. That whole segment was awkward and didn't fit with the overall mood of the picture. Still, this is a powerful, tragic movie that needs to be seen. And the best thing about it is that it introduces part of the war that no one ever thinks about. I love movies that really bring something new to the table.

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