With so many films about the Iraq war come and gone, the arrival of The Messenger, a becalmed, observant drama about Casualty Notification Officers (those whose work it is to stoically inform next of kin of their loss) seems oddly appropriate, especially as it’s released at that moment when the public’s attention is being wrenched towards Afghanistan and the ongoing situation in Iraq drifts ever further from consciousness. Oren Moverman’s directorial debut is structured around absences—those who’ve died, actions taken elsewhere. His protagonists are largely obsessed with aftermaths, even as they works towards becoming actors in their own lives. From our vantage point in 2009, the film feels a period piece, some kind of elegy for those hazy pre-surge summers of 2005 or 2006 when casualties were at their height and the war promised to loom large over upcoming elections. Largely stripped of politics, aside from a generalized “war damages” sensibility, The Messenger is not here to serve as nagging Iraq War reminder. In fact, it’s in many ways not quite the movie you’d expect.
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