Tuesday, June 1, 2010

DVD Reviews - The Messenger, Daybreakers

The Messenger - ***1/2

Directed by:  Oren Moverman

Starring:  Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, Samantha Morton, Jena Malone

Review:  One of the most horrible feelings/moments imagineable would have to be the moment when two soldiers come to your door while you child is away at war.  You instantly know what the problem is and why these strangers are at your door, but you hold out hope just for a second that maybe they are coming to tell you something else, but it never ends up that way.

That is what this movie is about.  I have never had to be in this situation and I pray that I never will be.  This is a feeling I never want to have to experience.  Nobody ever knows how they are going to react in this situation and my guess is nobody every reacts like they think they would.  That is the crux of this movie.

The movie follows a soldier that has just returned from action a war hero and injured.  He has a couple months of duty remaining and is selected to spend that time in the Casualty Notification Unit.  He will be shepherded by an experienced soldier in this group (Woody Harrleson) on how to make sure the victim's kin are notified correctly.  That is the premise of the movie and it is a very good portrait of how different people can deal with tragedy in different ways.

I have never been to war and probably never will be in my lifetime so it is hard to say how I would react in battle and how I would cope with what I've seen after coming back from battle.  Seeing the worst part of humanity will affect people in different ways and this movie shows it can affect soldiers and how it continually affects not only you, but the people around you and your life.  Whether you are dead and gone or still alive, your war experience will have a very huge impact on the important people in your life.

This movie is not propaganda about anti-war or anything of that sort, rather, just a snapshot of how war affects every day lives of veterans and families of veterans or those that were KIA.  Similar to another movie released around the same time 'Brothers' (review here) it shows how much war affects soldiers and how much the rest of us pretend it isn't happening or it's not a big deal.  At least, until it affects our lives.  Perhaps that is the biggest tragedy of war that besides the one's in the trenches the rest of us don't know what goes on and gladly turn a blind eye while others risk their lives and then have to come back and pretend like none of it ever happened.  But What happens when you can't pretend?  Or when your child doesn't come back and every time you think of them or somebody asks of them it all comes rushing back?  These are questions posed by this movie and the answers are shown in the characters.  They may not be the answers we want but they are truthful.

That is where the movie shines, in the performances.  Ben Foster gives a great performance in the lead role, Woody Harrelson portrays the part of the flawed man who has been numbed to the process because he has done it for so long to perfection.  There is a tragedy in his character that is hard to pull off and he does it well.  His character spends his days robotically telling people of their lost loved ones and finds ways to push everyone else in his life away so that he can't be hurt and have to deal with it the way these people have to.  It is a very tragic character and played very well by Harrelson, perhaps the best role of his career.  Samantha Morton also gives a very good understated performance as a widow that Ben Foster's character takes a liking to, and the writing is top notch.  All in all, definitely worth your time.

Daybreakers - **

Directed by:  Michael & Peter Spierig

Starring:  Ethan Hawke, San Neil, Willem Dafoe

Review:  My sister told me not to see this movie and that it was very lame.  However, the idea and the presentation intrigued me and I suppose that is why they pay people money to make good trailers cause this movie was not very good.

The year is 2019 and the world is now overrun with vampires to the point that true human blood is at a shortage and humans have been driven to hiding as they are now hunted to be harvested.  This whole premise is a very intriguing idea, however, terrible execution is what makes this movie suffer.

The movie follows Ethan Hawke's character who works for a company run by Sam Neil that harvest's humans and their blood.  As this company knows about the blood shortage, they are attempting to find a blood substitute so they can ensure the vampire population flourishes and everyone doesn't turn into giant human-bat hybrids.

Eventually Ethan Hawke's character hooks up with a human renegade group and they believe to have found a cure for vampire-ism and the question is can they reach the people in charge in time and would they even want a cure if they could get one?

The movie is flat and I have little tolerance for movies in which the actors don't appear to care about their characters.  I expect better out of Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Neil.  This movie is just unfortunate all the way around.  There is also little action and the majority of the action is stupid.  However, the special effects were actually pretty good.  That's about the only positive thing I can say.  The rating gets bumped about half a star or so just cause I like the actors in it and the storyline had more promise than it showed, but ultimately, not worth your time.

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