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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.

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