The Messenger

Rated 3.0

Another well-acted slice of contemporary American military life, in the subcategory Guys Whose Job You Wouldn’t Want (see also The Hurt Locker), Oren Moverman’s directorial debut stars Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster as Army officers informing families that their loved ones have been killed in action. It’s work for which, as Harrelson’s alcohol- and protocol-dependent captain puts it, there’s “no such thing as a satisfied customer.” Meanwhile Foster’s staff sergeant, a wounded war hero, fans an old flame played by Jena Malone and takes special interest in a war widow played by Samantha Morton. Clearly Moverman and co-writer Alessandro Camon respect the range of grief these men encounter (including their own), but a slackening stride and a couple of misfired scenes eventually tip the movie into sterile conventionality. It’s worth seeing for Foster’s performance anyway, and for a brief and excellent one from Steve Buscemi as a mourner.