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The Messenger Review Critics


Dave White Profile

Not a Candygram. Read full review


Jen Yamato Profile

It’s hard out here for a Casualty Notification Officer. Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 80

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter

    Moverman adopts a functional directing style that gives full rein to the actors' impressive performances.

    Read Full Review

  • 83

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    There's nothing drab about the tormented place these men take each other to. You'll want to go along.

    Read Full Review

  • 88

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    This heart-rending tale also is a mesmerizing one because of several superb performances, particularly those of Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson.

    Read Full Review

  • See all The Messenger reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 17+

Grim, intense war-themed drama is ultimately rewarding.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Messenger is an intense but thoughtful drama about a wounded Iraq War veteran who's been assigned the very difficult task of informing people of their loved ones' deaths. It's a grim subject that certainly won't appeal to everyone -- though families with mature teens whose lives have been touched by war may find it very emotional and rewarding -- but it brings upsome fascinating topics, including the ways that war changes people. The movie doesn't shy away from the raw aspects of soldiers' lives -- complete with strong language, fighting, heavy drinking, sex (including full-frontal nudity) and sex talk -- but it offers a lot to talk and think about.

  • Families can talk about the movie's timeliness. With wars going on inIraq and Afghanistan, how do the issues in this movie resonate with real life? What do your kids think?
  • What do you think of the rules of notification, as laid down byCaptain Tony Stone? Would a more personal touch, with introductions andphysical contact, be more effective than a cold, military approach?
  • Is it unethical for Will to fall in love with Olivia?
  • Olivia at one point describes how the war changed her husband. Howcould people better prepare for or deal with the return of loved onesfrom the war?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: The movie has an overwhelming sense of negativity and helplessness, but there are hints of characters triumphing over adversity. Will initially deals with troubles through anger and drinking, but as his friendship grows with Olivia and Tony, he starts to learn tenderness and understanding. Tony, too, begins to allow himself to get close to Will and learn from his newfound compassion.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Will isn't exactly a shining role model -- he's conflicted, angry, confused, depressed, and frustrated. He very often gives into these tangled emotions, reacting with rage and drinking. But his new position begins to open his heart and give him some insight, and through his friendships with Olivia and Tony, he begins to look for more positive, hopeful outlets and learns patience and understanding.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: The movie has a mostly simmering, unspoken violence. In his frustration, Will angrily hurls darts at his wall and listens to loud, harsh music. He and Tony get into a brief, mild shoving fight. Later, they team up against three bullies, but the movie cuts away from the actual fight directly to the results: cuts and bruises.

  • sex false4

    Sex: Will has sex with an ex-girlfriend in the film's first few minutes, with some rear and frontal female nudity and definite grinding/thrusting. Later, Tony has a naked girl in his bed, and there's full-frontal female nudity, as well as Tony's naked behind. Still later, Tony has noisy sex with another girl, but totally offscreen.

  • language false4

    Language: Frequent use of "f--k" and "f--king," as well as some use of "s--t." Other words include "balls," "ass," and "hell."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false4

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Adult characters drink frequently and intensely, mainly to drown out their pain and fear. Tony is an alcoholic who's fallen off the wagon; the two men go on a long drinking binge at one point. Drinks range from beer to whisky.