The performances in The Messenger are really the heart and soul of the film. Ben Foster is amazing, managing a delicate balance between war weary solider and old fashion gentleman. Woody Harrelson is also brilliant, his gruff, by the book character allowing for the few subtle moments of levity that this intense drama needs.
Samantha Morton is also fantastic, her real world girl believable and endearing. She’s often stellar in her roles. For me, she’s become of those actors whose decisions can be trusted – if she chose to be in a film, it’s probably worth seeing (my favorite Samantha Morton role being in the Ian Curtis biopic, Control which you should absolutely check out if you haven't seen). Side-note: Looking at her IMDb profile, I’ve learned she’s the voice of Ruby on the children’s show Max and Ruby. And now that I see that – yes, I can totally hear it. Mind=blown.
The final performance worth a specific shout out is that of Steve Buscemi in a role almost small enough to be considered a cameo. His performance as the father of a fallen solider who is informed of the death by our protagonists is heartbreaking and difficult to watch.
On a related note, there was one performance that completely pulled me out of the film. Any America’s Next Top Model viewer worth her salt would recognize Yaya in a seriously intense role as the pregnant girlfriend of a deceased solider. If you’re anything like me, this appearance will have you reflecting back to ANTM acting teaches and wondering what advice Tyra would provide Yaya for such a difficult role. “You really have to let go. It’s okay to cry, our emotions are what make us beautiful.” In the land of Ugly Betty, I can get over seeing top model castoffs, but in such a serious film, it was crazy distracting.
Oh - and what would a low-budget little independent film be without a Jena Malone appearance? She’s there too.
I haven’t seen any negative reviews for The Messenger so I’m not really stepping out onto any limbs by recommending it. It’s an intense watch, quiet and powerful beginning to end. It’s definitely worth seeing.