A Subtly Embedded (Anti) War Message

An extraordinary anti-war film that does not engage in polemics. The Messenger's extreme effectiveness is due to the brilliant acting of the two principal characters played by Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson.

Staff Sgt. Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), who demonstrated great courage under fire in Iraq, is sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and given an interim assignment while waiting discharge from the service. He is paired with Capt. Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), a career Army man. They are assigned to visit fallen soldiers' next of kin to deliver the sad news of the soldier's death. 

Tony instructs Will on how it is to be done. They are to read from a script, offering the condolences of the Secretary of the Army, and never to physically touch the next of kin unless the individual appears to be in need of assistance, like having a heart attack, after hearing the news. Their encounters with family members have enormous impact on them and the movie audience.

In one case, Dale Martin (Steve Buscemi), the father of a fallen soldier, can't accept the news and begins to strike Will, the messenger. On another occasion, a mother and a pregnant girlfriend receive the news and engage in withering screams. On a third call, the news is delivered to a young, white woman, Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morton), whose fallen husband is African American. This encounter leads to a relationship between Samantha and Will. The conversations and arguments between Will and Tony ring true to life and are brilliantly acted.  

All in all, the message of this low-keyed film that doesn't lecture is very clear. If you go to war, it better be for a good cause and one that makes acceptable the deaths and assaults that inevitably will follow. For millions, including me, that does not now exist in either Iraq or Afghanistan. It is time to bring our troops home. Those in Iraq are scheduled to return early next year and at the latest by December 31, 2011. That is not true for our troops in Afghanistan where our shoring up a corrupt government is still open-ended unless President Obama reverses our policy.

The anti-war movies are getting better in delivering their messages. I recommend "The Messenger," with the same fervor that I recommended "The Hurt Locker." Be sure to see both of them.

HS said: "This was a first-rate film which sends a powerful message about the consequences of war without trashing America. It is also a male-bonding film which shows two men who develop powerful emotional ties but are not gay. I had a similar job when I was 16 years old and a Western Union messenger delivering telegrams in Washington Heights. When a telegram contained a death message, I learned to deliver the closed envelope, get the recipient's signature, and walk downstairs quickly without waiting for a tip. The movie is neither morbid nor judgmental; it is worth seeing." 

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Ed Koch was mayor of NYC from 1978 to 1989. He's credited with restoring fiscal stability to the city and creating affordable housing. He's also a film buff. More

Mayor Koch saved New York City from bankruptcy and restored the pride of New Yorkers during his three terms as mayor from 1978-1989. He restored fiscal stability by placing the city on a GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practices) balanced budget. He created a housing program that provided more than 150,000 units of affordable housing and created New York City's first merit judicial selection system. Prior to being mayor, Mr. Koch served for nine years as a congressman and two years as a member of the New York City Council. He attended City College of New York from 1941 to 1943. He was drafted into the Army his last year of college and served with the 104th Infantry Division. He received two battle stars and was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant in 1946. He received his LL.B. degree from the New York University School of Law in 1948 and began to practice law immediately thereafter. He is currently a partner in the law firm of Bryan Cave LLP and hosts a call-in radio program on Bloomberg AM 1130 (WBBR). Mr. Koch appears weekly on NY1 television and is the author of ten autobiographical books.

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