Sunday 20 Apr

Dustin Prinz - Eleven

Few musicians take the time to master their instrument in the way that Oklahoma City singer-songwriter Dustin Prinz has; he’s a guitar virtuoso in every sense of the word, and Eleven gives him the chance to show just how far he can push that skill.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0

Horse Thief – Fear in Bliss

Listening to Horse Thief’s previous release — the haphazardly melodramatic Grow Deep, Grow Wild — felt like a chore. Whatever potential the Oklahoma City folk-pop act demonstrated on the EP was obscured behind a formulaic, contrived and ultimately hollow cloud. But it at least offered a glimmer of promise for a band consisting of, frankly, five pretty talented dudes. Critics saw it; the band’s management saw it; its current label, Bella Union, saw it; and its increasingly fervid fan base saw it.
04/08/2014 | Comments 0

Colourmusic — May You Marry Rich

There’s always a sense of danger when debuting songs in a live setting and playing them well. Without having heard the studio versions, expectations are set according to the live incarnations. But capturing the breadth of free-flowing atmosphere and sheer volume on a disc, vinyl or digital file isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially for a band as vociferous as Colourmusic.
04/01/2014 | Comments 0

Em and the MotherSuperiors — Churches into Theaters

As titles go, Churches into Theaters is an apt descriptor for the debut album from Oklahoma City rockers Em and the MotherSuperiors. It’s a reverential record, one that shares the gospel of classic rock, blues and soul but embraces the need to refashion it for modern times, channeling The Dead Weather, Grace Potter and Cage the Elephant along the way.
03/25/2014 | Comments 0

Rachel Brashear — Revolution

Rachel Brashear’s second EP, Revolution, starts with a kick to the shins.
03/18/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Music · Music · Two soldiers tasked with...

Two soldiers tasked with notifying next of kin deliver an emotional narrative in 'The Messenger'

Mike Robertson January 21st, 2010

Each United States war has produced its own kind of war movie. World War II films generally celebrate the virtues of heroic sacrifice; the Cold War warned against the soul-vampirism of functional Comm...

Each United States war has produced its own kind of war movie. World War II films generally celebrate the virtues of heroic sacrifice; the Cold War warned against the soul-vampirism of functional Communism; Vietnam showed us the futility of imperialism and the fragility of the human psyche.

What most of these had in common is that they directly dealt with their respective wars and the attendant politics. In other words, there is almost always an underlying judgment " positive or negative " about the war's purpose and resulting justice or injustice.

There have been a few such movies about the Iraq war ("Stop-Loss," "Body of Lies"). However, over the last year, "The Hurt Locker" and now "The Messenger" have taken a different tack: erasing political judgment and focusing solely on people playing unusual roles on the edges of the war. The film screens Thursday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

Will (Ben Foster, "Pandorum") is newly stateside after a physically destructive tour in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Various parts of his body have been damaged and rehabbed, including his eyes. His family dead, Will's only connection to the past is Kelly (Jena Malone, "Into the Wild"), his high-school girlfriend. Sadly, in his absence, she has become engaged to another, more whole man. With only a few months left on his tour, Will's superiors assign him to a "notification team," Army-speak for the guys who drive around telling dead soldiers' families they're dead.

Will is paired with Tony (Woody Harrelson, "Zombieland"), an Operation Desert Storm-era enlisted man who has never seen much traditional battle, but who has seen more than his share of misery. Will is unenthusiastic about his assignment, and Tony is saddled with convincing Will the job is as important, if not more so, than the business of killing.

Along the way, Will and Tony notify Olivia (Samantha Morton, "Synecdoche, New York") that her husband is dead. Will, who is beginning to empathize with his customers, takes a slightly unhealthy interest in her. He eventually establishes a tenuous, painful friendship that's akin to a pair of bruises trying to hug each other; they each desperately need the contact, but it's just too painful.

After several crisis moments, Will begins to break through the insulating shell the Army has encouraged him to build around himself. The process proves to be contagious, and Tony soon follows.

While the entire movie is engaging and saturated with emotion of one kind or another, the brightest spots come when Will and Tony are working. Each notification scene is more harrowing and suspenseful than any battle scene. Each recipient reacts differently: Some scream and wail, some get angry and spit, and some show distracted kindness.

While not quite as tight overall as "The Hurt Locker," "The Messenger" deserves more recognition  than  it's received. It may not be a genre-defining example, but it definitely stands out as one of the best movies about our country's current collective war experience. "Mike Robertson
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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