has an average rating of 7.4 on IMDb
1080p in AVC MPEG-4 on a 50gb disc
DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
include DVD and more
– 118 minutes
– Oscilloscope Laboratories
This uses 25.3GB for the movie out of 42.0GB total.
Overall Verdict – Recommended
— Review written by: Danielle Byington —
The Movie Itself was Directed and Co-Written by Oren Moverman, with the additional writing credit of Alessandro Camon.
The movie centers on Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) who has just be appointed to the duty of the Army’s Casualty Notification for his remaining three months. Having returned from fighting in Iraq, Montgomery works with Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) as he learns just how daunting the action of informing the deceased’s next of kin is; facing not only family members who shed tears who he is not to offer physical condolences to, but people who filter their emotions in aggressive manners.
While Montgomery describes himself to Stone as a man who is not religious, nor one who is capable of providing grief counseling, Stone explains to him how this is part of the character required to deliver these grim Casualty Notifications. As Montgomery pursues to complete each notification, which first comes to Stone and himself via a pager, the young Sergeant attempts to be equally as strong as his seasoned Captain partner, taking in each ounce of Stone‘s advice; knocking instead of ringing the doorbell (as it may play an unsuitable tune to the news of “your husband is dead”), not hugging or physically touching the receivers of the news, and so forth. Montgomery can understand the Captain’s advice as he begins to step into the shoes of Notification, though a particular incident seems to strike a chord in him as the two men declare to a woman the death of her husband, and her non-typical (at least to what Montgomery has experienced thus far) reaction.
“The Messenger” is broadly a rather emotional film, but more in a humbling manner; if you have ever felt resentment and anger in the surge of having distaste for your job, this story will put you in your place, as this film’s portrayal of the task that must be done shows the intensities that accompany the duty of being Casualty Notification. Not only does it bring to life the realization of how difficult this real life assignment is for the men and women who must deliver the message, but also how literally world-shattering it is for the families who are on the receiving end of such news, having no means or prediction of if and when they have lost their loved one serving our country on the other side of the world.
The primary performances of the film sparkle with sheer talent from Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson; Harrelson being one of the two reasons the film received an Oscar nomination (the latter being for Best Screenplay). As Harrelson mentions in the provided supplements, he was drawn to the production by its strong screenplay, a quality of the story’s summary alone that impresses an evident vibe. However, a drama depicting the trials of breaking the spirits of surviving militant families, though truthfully an intelligent but grim creation reflecting the troubles of our world, does not stand alone as the primary source of this exhibited talent. Foster‘s portrayal of a young Sergeant expressing this rehearsed dialogue to grieving next of kin is more than just the words he is limited to speaking to the expectations he has just shattered. Sergeant Montgomery has also dealt his time in Iraq, and just as certain scenarios place him as the victim of verbal infliction at the hands of those he has just broken the news of death to, he also portrays a glint of question to his own life, having no exact destination. Also, with the nature of Harrelson‘s particular on-screen essence, the character of Stone is not alone simply “well developed” by the actor, but his character’s written lines show a man who is not quite as hardened by his life in the military as he lets it seem to be.
Overall, the story itself touches on boundaries of emotions some of us have and will never encounter in the relevance of their situations, but this is where the movie does its job in showing us the pain felt on both sides. In closing, the film itself merits a “4.5 Star Rating“, being more than a healthy recommendation for those who have yet to catch it.
Video Quality on this release is in full 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a BD-50 (50 gigabyte dual-layered Blu-ray Disc) in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The movie was shot on the Arricam LT camera, using Cooke and Angenieux Lenses, and this 35MM’s transfer to Hi-Def offers a borderline raw feel to its visual presentation. Film grain is far from heavy, however, an inky black level, neutral to cool color palette, and a significant use of handy-cam work provide the film with its somber and grit-like tone. This inky quality of the film carries over into setting off the moderately vibrant contrast visible in some scenes (primary exterior shots), providing a “pop” at times to even the most subdued color themes of the set designs and wardrobe. Fleshtones translate well through out the release’s runtime amongst the neutral to cool tones of the palette, never reading as overly stark or plagued by unnatural darkening hues.
Definition is overall quite impressive, with detail that is more visually abundant in some shots rather than others, fluctuating with the focus of the shot, and the lighting situations of scenes. Fine details are often detectable in the facial features of the actors, as well as the other typical subjects like strands of hair, and textures of wardrobe and props; though the extent to which this fine definition reveals itself does fluctuate, not on a wide scale, but partially. All in all, while it pushes close to a half-star rating higher at times, the video quality on this release is concentrated on more of a (still praise worthy) “4 Star Rating“.
Audio Quality on this release is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. The content of this drama does not offer more than a moderate level of sound presentation, as the more somber tone of the film relies on a gentler conveyance of the sound design. Though, the absence of massive audio washing over the soundscape is not at all to imply a less than pleasing performance of the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Clarity of all audible content is perfect, from the small foley of environmental effects portraying the setting, to the sounds defining actions of the cast interacting with the set/props; this example ranges from the several occurrences of Notification knocking on the doors of the deceased’s next of kin, to the beeping of the pager dreadfully informing Sergeant Montgomery that his duty is calling. As the audio track’s presentation steers clear of being overkill, it is also not another bland and simple one, as from time to time audible subjects of the setting make a subtle panning effort, and assigned channel presence. Dialogue is captured nicely as well, and often is conveyed from the center front channel, with a few instances of popping up from the left or right front channels respective to the on-screen action. Overall, this DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track’s performance is perfectly suitable to the content of the film, and does it solid justice, earning the audio quality for this release a “4 Star Rating“.
Bonus materials are presented in 1080i, and Standard Definition, using Linear PCM 2.0 Stereo.
- A DVD of the film in Standard Definition is included with this making it a “Combo” style release.
- “Notification” (SD, 24:07) is a documentary short filmed in the Summer of 2008 by filmmakers Joe Kelly & John Vernon. The short was intended to be a companion to this release, and its content covers interviews with the surviving families of militant causalities.
- “Audio Commentary With Oren Moverman, Lawrence Inglee, Ben Foster, and Woody Harrelson“
- “Going Home: Reflections From the Set” (SD, 11:40) consists of interviews with the cast and crew as they discuss the experience of the production, and their opinions of the story and its themes.
- “Variety Screening Series Q&A With Filmmakers and Cast” (1080i, 27:16) offers the Q&A session with Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, and Director Oren Moverman.
Overall, the bonus materials should be pleasing to fans of the film, with over an hour of supplements, partially consisting of a great documentary short that is sure to be worth the watch if you were into the film, and “Q&A’s” that involve incredible actors such as Foster and Harrelson are always a great inclusion.
Blu-ray Disc packaging:
NOTE: The full-sized 1920×1080 files are in a .PNG file format and uncompressed. Bare with the slow loading times, keep in mind these files are at least 1MB (1 megabyte) in size each.