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The Messenger (2009)



Average Rating: 7.5/10
Reviews Counted: 155
Fresh: 139 | Rotten: 16

A dark but timely subject is handled deftly by writer/directer Owen Moverman and superbly acted by Woody Harrleson and Ben Foster.


Average Rating: 7.4/10
Critic Reviews: 35
Fresh: 30 | Rotten: 5

A dark but timely subject is handled deftly by writer/directer Owen Moverman and superbly acted by Woody Harrleson and Ben Foster.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 20,976

My Rating

Movie Info

An Iraq War veteran who just narrowly escaped death in combat struggles with his new post at the Casualty Notification Office while anticipating his upcoming discharge in this military drama starring Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, Jena Malone, and Samantha Morton. Will Montgomery (Foster) has spent his fair share of time in army hospitals, and with just three months to go before returning to civilian life, he discovers that his girlfriend back home (Malone) has decided to move on with her life.


Drama, Romance

Oren Moverman, Alessandro Camon

May 18, 2010


Oscilloscope Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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Latest News on The Messenger

February 7, 2012:
Oren Moverman on Rampart and Directing Woody Harrelson
Director Oren Moverman worked as a screenwriter before making his feature debut with 2009's The...
November 29, 2009:
Satellite Awards Nominees Announced
Signaling that the awards season is about to begin, the International Press Academy has announced...


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All Critics (155) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (139) | Rotten (16) | DVD (9)

[An] unpredictable, episodic, deeply resonant character piece.

June 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The bombshell is the news of a soldier's death and the delivery of that message is the heart of this unsentimental, yet deeply moving, story.

February 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is premised on the verbal communication of urgent information, yet its many non-verbal moments provide the greatest strength and clarity.

February 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Harrelson gives us layers of hurt under a callous yet needy crust. It may be the best performance of his career and certainly deserves Oscar consideration.

January 27, 2010 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

With the insight and sensitivity of an insider, The Messenger illuminates the sometimes invisible victims of war -- the survivors -- and a pain that is tolerated but never quite healed.

January 14, 2010 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

At its center lie three accomplished performances, by Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton, that are not to be missed.

December 10, 2009 Full Review Source: New York Observer
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Messenger is always just left of straightforward, which keeps it interesting.

March 5, 2014 Full Review Source: Stop Smiling
Stop Smiling

I know several folks in military service who wouldn't watch this movie if you paid them.

July 30, 2012 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

Alejado de cualquier rastro de patriotismo, desnudando la complejidad emocional detrás de un drama históricamente recurrente que ha sido retratado con frecuencia por el cine norteamericano, aunque esta vez de manera un poco más intimista.

July 22, 2011 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total
Uruguay Total

It never feels contrived or overwritten, managing to deftly pack emotional punches through the strength of its performances and direction.

July 14, 2011 Full Review Source: Digital Spy
Digital Spy

It's a shame so few people will see this on the silver screen.

June 22, 2011 Full Review Source: Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post

The Messenger takes on a warmth and plangency that rewards viewing.

June 19, 2011 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Don't let the fact Woody Harrelson got an Oscar nomination tempt you anywhere near The Messenger - the message here is about as welcome as a death knock on a wet Sunday afternoon.

June 17, 2011 Full Review Source: Daily Mirror [UK]
Daily Mirror [UK]

An intelligent, superbly acted and moving drama that manages to say more about war and its consequences than most films set on the front line.

June 17, 2011 Full Review Source: Movie Talk
Movie Talk

Although it stumbles on the storytelling, drifting rather repetitively around the lives of its haunted protagonists, it's a rewarding, humane picture.

June 17, 2011 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

Foster and an Oscar-nominated Harrelson effectively convey the outward steel and inner fragility of these men of war but the film is slow-moving and maudlin.

June 17, 2011 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

An intelligent and well-acted film which deserves its outing here.

June 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Guardian

It's a film of quietly assured dramatic clout, a strong and sober reckoning with American conscience.

June 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

Stumbles a little, loosening its grip in the bromantic final stretch. But if impenitent heartstring pluckage is what you're after, this is where it's at.

June 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

This worthwhile drama reports from the home front as the war on terror continues.

June 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

The Oscar-nominated script pursues a grimly honourable task into its grim and not always honourable byways.

June 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

Intimate, powerful filmmaking.

June 15, 2011 Full Review Source: The Skinny
The Skinny

It's a welcome addition to the increasingly interesting movie canon dealing with the downside of the war.

June 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Sky Movies
Sky Movies

A powerhouse performance full of tragic comic undertones while looking at the psychological effects of war in an original storytelling manner...

June 14, 2011 Full Review Source:

A worthy addition to the canon of Iraq war films, The Messenger has a gentle humanity that creeps under your skin.

June 13, 2011 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Audience Reviews for The Messenger

We've seen countless war films about the battlefield, filled with graphic and shocking images that depict war as the ultimate hell on earth. Some of those films (Saving Private Ryan, Platoon) are incredible while others (Windtalkers, Pearl Harbor) are not. The Messenger is a film that doesn't concern itself with the battlefield. It is about the aftermath, when soldiers are employed to visit the families of those killed in action and give them the horrible news. It is an undoubtedly gripping picture, filled with moments of mourning, sadness, and insanity. The story is ultimately about grief that never goes away but has to nonetheless be overcome. Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, and Samantha Morton give career defining performances. This film is an absolute masterpiece that portrays the "war is hell" theme in a way that truly has never been seen before in film.
March 24, 2013

Super Reviewer

More often than not, when a film that is a wartime drama gets released, it usually focuses on the battlefield, and the horrors of war. Not all, but many. This is one of the few that focuses on what hapens after all that, when the news that no one wants comes, and the men who are assigned to deliver it.

Sometimes sad, sometimes bitter, sometimes even a bit funny, but definitely real, this is an excellent docudrama about Staff Sgt. Will Montgomery- a wounded veteran home from Iraq with three months left until his service is up. To finish out his time he is assigned to the Casualty Notification Office where he is sent out under the guidance of senior officer Capt. Tony Stone to notify family members of the deaths of their loved ones.

The film focuses on this painful but necessary part of life, as well as the effect it has on both men, each with their own set of issues and the various ways they try to cope with them. At times this can be a very gut and heart wrenching film, and really awkward and uncomfortable, but it is presented in a respectful manner with characters that are very well developed and interesting. The script is very sharp, and the direction, as I said, gives it a feeling of realism that can be hard to endure, but never exploitative.

Ben Foster once again proves he is a really talented person to watch, and he gives a fantastic performance filled with pain, emotion, and sympathy.
Woody Harrelson shows that he can be brilliant no matter the size of the part he plays, or how much screen time he has. He brings an effective sense of weariness and experience to things. He and Foster have great chemistry together, and I'd love to see them work together again.

Samantha Morton (whom I didn't recognize at first) is amazing as a widow who develops an odd rapport with Foster's character after he informs her that her husband has been killed overseas. Jena Malone takes what could have been a one note role ( Will's girlfriend who can't handle being with him anymore so she leaves him) and gives it more depth and substance. Steve Buscemi shines as one of several characters (like Morton's) who receive a visit from Stone and Montgomery and deals with it in a way that is very memorable and moving.

This film avoids dealing with politics and the validity of war, and instead focuses on the people. It's a very moving indie drama that, as the directorial debut of screenwriter Oren Moverman, could be the start of a very great career for him as something other than a writer.You should definitely give this film a watch. It's quite compelling and kept me interested the whole way through.
July 8, 2012
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Captain Tony Stone: I know what you're thinkin'. You're thinkin' shit, I'm a goddamn decorated war hero with three months left to serve, and they draft me into the angels-of-death squadron. I get a beeper, a canned speech, and a lunatic commanding officer to serve a fuckin' ocean of grief. Am I right? 

The Messenger is a powerful piece of filmmaking. It never goes over the top with all the sadness that is in the movie. There's never that scene we are accustomed to seeing in lesser movies, where there's a sad score in the background when we are shown tearjerking material. Instead this film remains quiet in the sadness. We follow two army messengers that tell families of their loved ones death. The commanding officer, Stone, is by the book. He wants to go in, tell them, and get out. There's to be no touching of the next of kin. Will is a war hero who has three months left to serve, and is assigned to the job. The movie gives us these two characters whose personalities differ. Watching Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster in these roles is something special. 

Harrelson and Foster have great chemistry on screen together, both give amazing performances, and go a long way in making the movie the powerful film it is. Harrelson is a favorite of mine, and we gives a really good performance, like the one here, it is an amazing thing to watch. Foster reminded me a lot of Sean Penn in this movie. I haven't seen to much of him, but he definitely shows that he is an extremely good actor with his work here.

What makes this movie the amazing achievement it is though is the direction of Oren Moverman. He doesn't give in to the typical sentimentality and melodrama. He gives us scenes that are sad, but he doesn't try to force us to cry. The material is sad enough in its own right; so he knows that anything else is overkill. The situations the messengers walk into differ greatly. Sometimes their hated, sometimes their respected, and other times they are just their while the family grieves. All of these situations are handled greatly by Moverman, Harrelson, and Foster. 

A war film unlike any I have ever seen. It isn't about the actual war, but the toll of the war on the home front. It's sadder and more meaningful then showing the viewer how the kids die, by blowing them up on screen. The point isn't to see how they die, but how their death is handled at home. When a soldier dies that is not the end, as they have family and friends at home who then have to fight a war with grief. The Messenger does an incredible job showing us that.
May 29, 2012
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • The Messenger - Die letzte Nachricht (DE)
  • The Messenger (2009) (CA)
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