"MARKS A NEW BEGINNING" FOR IRAQ WAR IN CINEMA
Salon's Stephanie Zacharek caught I'm Not There screenwriter Oren Moverman's directorial debut, The Messenger, at the Berlin Film Festival. Zacharek, who mentions Brian De Palma's Redacted as the only standout Iraq war-themed film up to now, calls The Messenger a new beginning in the cycle. Here is an excerpt:
In the autumn of 2007, when we saw the first rush of war-related pictures like In the Valley of Elah and Rendition, writers across the land (including me) were asked by their editors to grapple with the significance and meaning of these movies. The problem was that, with the exception of Brian De Palma's passionate and disturbing Redacted, most of them were mediocre at best and gutless at worst. In terms of filmmaking, The Messenger marks a new beginning for the real work of dealing with the Iraq war mess. Moverman co-wrote Todd Haynes' extraordinary Bob Dylan un-biopic I'm Not There; he also co-wrote Ira Sachs' wry (if a bit too mannered) Married Life. Although Moverman doesn't have a particularly strong visual sense, The Messenger is still a confident and effective directorial debut, partly because Moverman has good narrative instincts, but also because he shows a graceful touch with his actors. Maybe that's no surprise with an actress like Samantha Morton, who plays a widow befriended by Foster. I've never seen Morton give a bad, or even a merely adequate, performance -- she's the only contemporary actress who can break my heart with nothing but the curve of her smile. But Foster, whom I found distressingly hammy in 3:10 to Yuma, dials it way down here: He doesn't show suffering on his face; he carries it in his bones, as if he realizes that the suffering after the fighting is the greater part of his duty. Moverman has made a tough, compassionate little picture -- with some great and necessary dashes of black humor -- that opens a new door into the world of damage, at home and everywhere, that we now need to face squarely.