Messenger, The (Blu-ray) (2009)

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Released 16-Feb-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Notification
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Audio Commentary
Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 112:41
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Oren Moverman
Studio
Distributor
Omnilab
Madman Entertainment
Starring Ben Foster
Jena Malone
Eamonn Walker
Woody Harrelson
Yaya DaCosta
Portia
Lisa Joyce
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $39.95 Music Nathan Larson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     It has become all too acceptable for Hollywood dramas to garner acceptance, even acclaim, despite having nothing to say and frequently no real plot. Under the spurious pretence of being an "actor's movie" these films act as little more than an excuse for thespians to emote their little hearts out, in all likelihood enjoying themselves far more than viewers ever will as they play with Oscar dreams beaming from their starry eyes. The Messenger is undeniably one such beast. The film is a loosely cobbled hodge-podge of themes that offers its leads, Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster, a sounding board with which to ply their craft. The pair portray a pair of soldiers given the responsibility of notification, the process of informing next of kin that something has happened to their kin (usually death). Foster plays a soldier, Will Montgomery, who has recently sustained sufficient injury from an IED blast to make him unfit for the field who is assigned to the notification group. Harrelson’s older character, Tony Stone, is made his partner and mentor.

     The pair cruise from their base to all manner of small towns telling people they have dead kids and husbands, with no real plot to speak of. As the pair race to notify the soon-to-be-bereaved countless ideas and moral quandaries are teased towards but never significantly explored. The pair have to juggle their regular duties with their notification duties, although the ramifications of this are never explored. The pair instantly become best buds without ever getting to know one another (in fact, they don't seem to have any other pals in the ranks or elsewhere). The notion of needing to notify the bereaved ahead of news media and the like is mentioned repeatedly, but this race is never really worked into the story and is only used as a stick to beat the audience with in explaining the importance of Montgomery and Stone's work. Stone is an alcoholic who falls off the wagon inexplicably, at least for no reason explainable within the context of the narrative as it offers an excuse for the two leads to drunkenly do silly things and wail about their feelings. Montgomery strikes up a romantic relationship with a woman he is sent to notify that she has become a war widow (the always adorable Samantha Morton), with none of the immediately obvious morality themes this abuse of trust offers explored. Despite these countless shortcomings, the film earned a nomination at the 2009 Oscars for best screenplay (admittedly it was a forgettable year). More plausible would have been a nomination for what the cast were able to wring out of the script, if such a thing existed (though Harrelson did in a roundabout fashion, earning a nomination for Best Supporting Actor).

     Though the story leaves a lot to be desired, the effortless, nee marvellous, performances by the whole cast make up for the shortcomings of the film enough to make it quite watchable. Altogether that makes for a frustrating affair. It is hard not to see the film as a missed opportunity that perpetuates a trend towards pointless drama, but all the same there is a lot to like in the film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The film is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p. The video serves the film well without looking particularly outstanding. The image is reasonably sharp and clear, with a modest veneer of film grain visible in the image. There is a decent level of detail in shadows and dark colours, although the colour is generally lacklustre (although this is more a stylistic choice than a video flaw). There is no sign of compression artefacts or film artefacts.

     The film features optional English subtitles, which appear to be reasonably accurate and well timed.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The film features a choice of English 2.0 Uncompressed LPCM or DTS HDMA 5.1 audio tracks.

     Both tracks are reasonably clear and free from defects, however the mixing leaves a lot to be desired. In particular the dialogue is uneven, with Woody Harrelson’s drawl hard to pick up at times as it seems buried in the mix and slightly muddy. The latter sentiment goes for much of the dialogue The film features an adequate, though not particularly noteworthy, modern score by Nathan Larson.

     The surround usage is quite lacklustre. For the most part it sounds like a stereo track that has been slightly pushed to the surrounds. The subwoofer barely registers at any point, although it is never really called for.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary

     Director/co-writer Oren Moverman, Producer Lawrence Inglee and stars Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster all chip in to this fairly dry commentary.

Going Home Featurette (11:39)

     An on-set making-of featurette that offers a little more perspective than EPK fluff, but not much more. At least it doesn't overstay its welcome and avoids padding. Worth a look.

Notification Featurette (24:07)

     A documentary on the real-life notification process, assembled in the course of researching the film. This doco largely comprises interviews with real army Notification personnel. It paints a reasonably comprehensive picture of the notification process, although it is a bit overlong for what it offers.

Q&A Featurette (27:15)

     A panel interview with the writers, director, producer and Woody Harrelson. There is some good stuff in here, but a lot of pap in between. Though certainly worth a look, this featurette could have used a trim.

Theatrical Trailer

     The theatrical trailer for the film, which plays up the romance sub-plot of the film more so than the rest of it (somewhat miss-selling it in the process).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region A and Australian Region B editions are pretty much identical, however the US DVD edition includes one extra not found on the Blu-ray editions; a PDF copy of the shooting script for the film.

Summary

     A modern military-themed drama that acts as a vehicle for its actors rather than much of a story.

     The video is decent. The audio is lacklustre despite ticking many of the right boxes technically. The extras are good in number and generally decent in quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Friday, April 29, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
DisplayOptoma HD20 Projector. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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