The home of Critic, Writer and Film-maker: Liam Walters

The Messenger [17th Bradford International Film Festival]

Written By: Liam Walters

So for the closing night at the 17th Bradford International Film Festival, they showed an an American film which released back in 2009, although never got an British release. This film was ‘The Messenger’, starring Ben Foster as Sergeant Will Montgomery, an American soldier with only a few months left being enlisted in the army.  Whilst recovering from an explosion that he was near, which damaged his eye and leg, he is transferred to the Casualty Notification Team in his area.

Captain Tony Stone, played by Woody Harrelson, helps Will settle into his new role, by teaching him the guide with what and what not to do. Tony also warns will that even though they are not in a battle zone, their kind of job comes with it’s own dangers.

Will quickly learns that he had to deal with all the different reactions and emotions that come with telling a next of kin that their loved one has died. His interest grows in the reaction of Olivia, who seems to take the news much better than some of the others he had delivered the news to. As his interest in Olivia develops, so does his affections for her.

This film was actually a really good film, one that I was really pleased I got to see, and I feel that it is a shame that it had not been able to get a distribution deal outside of the US. At the same time, I am able to see why, as it is a very ‘America’ oriented film, showing us how the American armies deal with their deceased soldiers.

At the same time, just because a film is relevant for the country it’s in, doesn’t mean it can’t be shown there. Slumdog Millionaire proved that no matter what the setting a film holds, it can find appreciation no matter where it’s shown.

Moving into the reason behind why I liked this film so much, it just seemed like everything worked well with it. The music, although not that rememberable, suited the film very well, and instead of being loud and noticeable, blended into the film subtly.

The storyline was developed and engaging all the way through, keeping you interested in the characters and plot. We saw that Tony may have more problems than he allows to show, as we see that the job has effected him in a way that he has learnt it best to be more professional, and somewhat cold when delivering the news to a next of kin. He could have possibly started off more caring, but learnt that the more he allowed himself to care, the more he hurt himself, and that it was a safer option just to become more stone like in his job.

With Will, we see a soldier out of his depth. He has fought in war and seen terrible things, though has saved his friends and team from terrible dangers. Now he suddenly finds himself in a situation where the only danger is allowing himself to care too much. We see him develop, almost wanting to try to reach out and comfort those he has to deliver the bad news too, as he hasn’t had the experience of allowing himself to like Tony had.

Although the twos relationship started somewhat rocky to start of with, there is a moment in the film were we the audience believe to see a tear, but instead it actually helps the two to build a stronger relationship, to the point where towards the end of the film they are able to share with each other more, and feel as though they do not need to lie to cover up certain facts.

All in all, the film is fantastic, and I hope that at some point they do manage a international distribution deal, as I believe this film deserves more people to see it than it already has had.



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