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Film / The Messenger

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"Mama said there'd be days like these.''
Captain Stone

The Messenger is a 2009 war drama starring Ben Foster as wounded Iraq veteran Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery who joins Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) as a casualty notification team. The pair goes through a multitude of tribulations together, while Will finds himself drawn to the wife of a deceased soldier the pair visits as a part of the job. Both men are pained by their demons and experiences in the Army.

The film was nominated for a Golden Globe and two Oscars.

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This film contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Tony is a recovering alcoholic.
  • Bearer of Bad News: It's in the job description: their duty is to inform the family of fallen soldiers that their loved ones had died.
  • Blood Knight: Played with, as Tony says that he wishes he was in a "real war."
  • Break the Haughty: Tony has a breakdown when he gets overwhelmed with emotion.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Subverted, as Will (Staff Sergeant) is generally more compassionate towards the next-of-kin they encounter, and Tony (Captain) is more distant.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Will and Tony have their moments.
    "It could be worse. It could be Christmas."
  • Death Notification: Will's new job with Tony.
  • Environmental Symbolism: The emotional climax to the movie takes place in Will's barely furnished apartment in the middle of the night, where a muted TV is showing footage of a giant tornado ripping silently across the screen while Will quietly describes his final battle in the war.
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  • Fire-Forged Friends: The pair didn't fight in the same war, but they've "been through hell and back together."
  • Lonely Together: Both Will and Tony are shown to live fairly solitary lives, having trouble relating to other people, staying up late with nothing to do. They eventually start hanging out with each other when off duty, becoming friends.
  • Manly Tears: Will and Tony have a very serious, very emotional job. There are tears.
  • Meet Cute: Averted. Will and Olivia meet in one of the least romantic ways imaginable.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • A group of friends are throwing a returning soldier a welcome home party. The soldier relates an amusing story of an Afghani man who looks old enough to be an elder who is actually younger than him and his friends laugh hysterically. Without missing a beat, he goes into graphic detail how the man died from multiple gunshots all over his body, then looks around to see everyone's shocked expression. He can't figure out why they stopped laughing.
    • Invoked by Tony when describing his methods on the team's first notification. Knock, never use the doorbell, he says. "You get some sing-song bullshit. Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony, your husband's dead. Doesn't flow. Throws you right off your game."
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Will gives one to Tony after a confrontation with a deceased soldier's next-of-kin.
    “I know I'm in the Army. I gave blood to the Army. I got blown up in a fire-fight that lasted longer than your entire war. I didn't sunbath in Kuwait with the rest of the POGs.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Will.
  • Shout-Out: Tony yells out "Charlie don't surf!" during the fishing scene.
  • War Is Hell: And it kills people.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Tony berates Will for making physical contact with a soldier's next-of-kin. Will throws it right back in his face for not being human enough to care.