The Messenger


Generally favorable reviews - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 32
  2. Negative: 1 out of 32

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Critic Reviews

  1. "The Hurt Locker" may be getting all the attention and awards but The Messenger is at least as good and perhaps, given its delicate handling of a sensitive subject, even better.
  2. It's a tremendously moving drama, filled with heartbreak, humor and, more importantly, humanity.
  3. 90
    This is a fully felt, morally alert, marvellously acted piece of work. Despite the grim subject, it's a sweet-tempered movie, with moments of explosive humor-an entertainment.
  4. 90
    No movie can convey the truth of war to those of us who have not lived through it, but The Messenger, precisely by acknowledging just how hard it is to live with that truth, manages to bring it at least partway home.
  5. 88
    Its truths are personal. It means to shake you. And does.
  6. 88
    This is a writer's picture, no less than a visual experience that approaches its subject as tactfully as the messengers do. No fancy camerawork. It happens, we absorb it.
  7. The Messenger is not itself grueling, which is practically a miracle. Rather, this pungent little chamber piece offers a full yet delicate range of emotions, and it humanizes its characters so that polemics are left in the background.
  8. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    This heart-rending tale also is a mesmerizing one because of several superb performances, particularly those of Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson.
  9. The best war movies don't preach against war: They remind us of the costs for soldiers and families and ask us to consider whether those costs are worth paying. The Messenger does that without firing a bullet or putting us on a battlefield.
  10. 88
    It's an unblinking look into the lives of soldiers doing the most thankless job of all.
  11. Reviewed by: Bob Mondello
    Messengers with the worst possible message, they nonetheless manage to be human and alive, humorous and lively. In a film that itself bears such sad tidings about the costs of war, that is an affirming, even an inspiring, gift.
  12. There's nothing drab about the tormented place these men take each other to. You'll want to go along.
  13. Captures the fear factor in the lives of these men without turning them into the usual home front head cases.
  14. The only scenes that felt "actorly" come when the pair drunkenly crash an ex-girlfriend's wedding party. Otherwise, The Messenger has a verisimilitude rare in films tackling this subject matter.
  15. Moverman adopts a functional directing style that gives full rein to the actors' impressive performances.
  16. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Nobody plays angry like Ben Foster, but compassion is something new for the actor, who softens his crazy-man shtick to deliver a complex and moving performance in The Messenger.
  17. The movie does an uncommonly sensitive job probing the psychologies of blocked men, less so the urges of a widow who needs more than comforting words.
  18. 80
    What really resonates is the complex tale of camaraderie between two men whose only hope of avoiding self-destruction is to let down their guard--which is, of course, against protocol.
  19. The actors playing parents and spouses (among them Steve Buscemi, Halley Feiffer, Portia, and Kevin Hagan) are stunningly believable. I'm not sure how Morton made sense of her character's ebbs and flows, but I never doubted her. She's a mariner in uncharted seas of emotion.
  20. The film belongs to Foster. The actor always makes the most of what is handed him, though he's usually required to find his footings around the margins, as he did as the crazed cowboy in "3:10 to Yuma" or the crazed druggie in "Alpha Dog."
  21. One of the rare movies that communicates honestly and artfully about the real casualties of war: the surviving combatants.
  22. Together, under the assured direction of first-time feature filmmaker Oren Moverman, these three actors tell a story that is at once hard-hitting and bizarrely gentle.
  23. 75
    The scenes between Montgomery and Stone in plainclothes would seem to be tangential to Moverman's movie, but they're very much its point. Only in uniform do these men make sense to themselves.
  24. A privileged glimpse into people's private pain, a drama shot with the simplicity and immediacy of a documentary.
  25. The Messenger is the debut film of writer and director Oren Moverman, but it's worldly wise, with two well-rounded characters.
  26. 75
    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.
  27. For all the film's gritty verisimilitude, The Messenger is not the great Iraq War movie that Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" is.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 48 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 16
  2. Negative: 1 out of 16
  1. Jul 18, 2014
    A very emotional film, The Messenger is certainly a must watch as it really manages to touch you in many ways and feels entirely heartfelt. OnA very emotional film, The Messenger is certainly a must watch as it really manages to touch you in many ways and feels entirely heartfelt. On top of that, it sports a fantastic performance from Ben Foster, as well as Woody Harrelson. Both of them really steal the show and sweep you off you feet as you entirely believe they are both heavily damaged men dealing with their own demons. On the surface, The Messenger is a film about an injured war veteran (Foster) being assigned to casualty notification duty with a hard as nails Captain (Harrelson). However, it is truly about their relationship and themselves as individuals as they learn more about one another and the other sees what troubles them. It is a very well done character study that is entirely moving in its subject matter and the way it handles this subject matter. The Messenger feels like a small film at times, but at others, it feels entirely grand and is very well done. Now, it is not a great film, but it is undeniably a damn good one and makes for a tough watch. Full Review »
  2. Feb 24, 2013
    An emotional powerhouse drama. Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster are stunning, and Samantha Morton and Jena Malone give solid supportingAn emotional powerhouse drama. Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster are stunning, and Samantha Morton and Jena Malone give solid supporting performances. Check it out! Full Review »
  3. Mar 22, 2012
    Even securing Hollywood veteran Woody Harrelson his second Oscar nomination, the film has eluded me until now, and a long overdue viewingEven securing Hollywood veteran Woody Harrelson his second Oscar nomination, the film has eluded me until now, and a long overdue viewing proves it is an overlooked gem on the recent war-trauma film list. The breakthrough effort of the film is its one-of-a-kind perspective, with zero scenes from the violent frontline (including the usual gambit of fly-on-the-wall clips), the modus operandi aims at the ominous casualty notification soldiers and one theatrical oomph originates from the various poignant reactions from the next-of-kins of dead soldiers in Iraq when they are being notified, a faintly tricky scheme to gain the empathy towards both the film and its main characters, which is a laudable feat and very operative due to a splendid cast and unostentatious script (the formality of notification is swell written).

    Budding as one of the versatile young actors in Hollywood, Ben Foster excels in his not-so-frequent leading role as an ostensible war-hero plagued by a hidden secret, typifies ideally a post-war anguish-tortured individual. Foster generates a magnificent screen chemistry both with his tutor-cum-friend Woody Harrelson (a well-developed supporting role as Fosterâ
    Full Review »