UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Woody Harrelson as Capt. Tony Stone.

The Messenger

Two officers are assigned to notify next of kin when a soldier is killed in action

By Debbie Cowling

The Messenger
Directed by Oren Moverman
(Oscilloscope Laboratories)


The Messenger is a war movie without guns, bombs or bloody scenes. Instead, it focuses on the war within — the battleground of our minds and the explosion of our emotions.

The film tells the story of injured Staff Sgt. Will Montgomery, played by Ben Foster, who has been sent home from Iraq with three months left to serve in the army. He is assigned to work with Capt. Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) in notifying next of kin that a loved one has been killed in action.

Family members of the deceased react in distinct ways to the initial shock of being told the devastating news. Some respond with anger and violence, others with gut-wrenching screams of disbelief. One soldier’s wife, who later becomes the object of affection for Montgomery, shows little emotion and seems to care more about how the two messengers are handling the task as bearers of bad news.

At times the movie drags, but this only adds to the reality that war is not all about action and excitement, as is so often portrayed on the screen.

The viewer is given some relief from the sorrow of death when Stone and Montgomery take off for some much-needed respite. However, the topic of war remains just below the surface at all times. Eventually the two begin to trust one another enough to share some painful memories of combat.

The Messenger isn’t a movie you’d watch more than once, but it’s a worthwhile film, offering a different outlook on war. Hearing about a soldier’s death will never be the same for me, as I will envision something beyond the statistics. I will see the pain on a mother’s face. I will hear the cry of a fiancée, and I will remember the haunting words of the messenger.

Debbie Cowling lives in Cavan, Ont., and attends Dunsford United.


Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

A perfect send-off

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: My Year of Living Spiritually

by Observer Staff

Anne Bokma left the Dutch Reformed Church as a young adult and eventually became a member of the United Church and then the Unitarian Universalists. Having long explored the "spiritual but not religious" demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in practices — like hiring a soul coach, secular choir-singing and forest bathing — for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.

Promotional Image

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

November 2017

Grey matter

by Trisha Elliott

Is consciousness just a function of the brain — or something more?

Promotional Image