Home / Sundance Day 7: The Messenger, Let’s Make Money, and The Reckoning

Sundance Day 7: The Messenger, Let’s Make Money, and The Reckoning

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I’m writing the beginning of this update in the lounge for press and filmmakers. Since being at Sundance I’m really impressed with the resourcefulness of people in the film industry. Conversations are happening all around me. Big decisions are made about buying and selling films while people are just sitting around drinking coffee; it amazes me. Other critics from different outlets are writing their reviews too. Sundance is one of the busiest places I’ve ever seen, and that doesn’t include the Main Street mayhem.

I’m sitting in this lounge because I’m waiting for the press office to confirm my requests for a few tickets for public screenings of Shrink (Kevin Spacey), Dare, and The Killing Room. I have yet to attend public screenings here and am excited to see how the public reacts.

The press hardly reacts to films — except for the film critic and sales rep who got in a real fist fight over the film Dirt! There are a few laughs when things are funny, and some applause when a film is good, but other than that the press just funnels out of the theater heading on to their next film. I’m sure sitting in a public screening I’ll get more of a feel for what a general audience thinks about the film.

Now on to a few reviews.

The Messenger

Taking Chance, with Kevin Bacon, told the story of how the military transports its dead. The Messenger, starring Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson, is the story of the people who notify the families of the deceased soldiers.

Sgt. Will Montgomery (Foster), a war hero, is assigned to commanding officer Tony Stone (Harrelson) to be part of the office that goes to notify the families of soldiers killed in action. They follow strict rules, such as no touching the family members they are notifying, and strictly follow a prepared script.

As you can surmise, this isn’t an easy job. Imagine yourself going to the door of strangers to tell them that a loved one has been killed. You can imagine all the different emotions going through the heads of the people you are confronting. You may also imagine that many of them may not be happy with you or the military and, as happens often, the messenger gets the brunt of the anger.

Foster is universally great in most everything he’s in. He was creepy and almost stole the show in 3:10 To Yuma. Here he plays Will Montgomery like a man who has some deep scars in his life. He has a girlfriend, but she’s dating someone else. He lives alone, no family of any kind, not even a computer.

Harrelson is likewise good as Tony Stone. Stone is an intimidating figure. He is strict in his observance of the rules that come with his job. He expects Montgomery to be as strict as he is. But, deep down Stone is a lonely man looking for any type of company. He finds a close friend in Montgomery.

Things become complicated when Montgomery begins to fall for one of the women he notifies of her husband’s death. Montgomery, like the woman, has no one in the world and is looking for any type of comfort — any type of human contact or connection.

The Messenger is a fascinating insight into how people deal with grief. Some of them are angry, some sad, some even try and hide their emotions. However people deal with grief, the most important part is acceptance. You see that acceptance in people when they come to grips with what has happened to their loved one. Blaming someone else doesn’t help, remembering the love you had for that person is what will get you through those tough times.

Let’s Make Money

I won’t even try and pretend that I know anything about the financial crisis we are now in. Fiscal policy and the way banks work with their funds is completely foreign to me.

Let’s Make Money is a documentary that focuses on the plethora of money problems that the world faces today. The problem with the film is the people explaining the problems explain it in such a way that you need an MBA to understand most of what they are saying. Rarely does the film bring the information down to a level that the general public can understand.

The documentary also suffers from an overuse of completely unrelated, secondary scenery shots. Much of the film contains different shots of surrounding scenery that has nothing to do with the subject material itself. When these shots are being shown a lot of the time there isn’t even a voiceover. It’s already hard for the audience to get involved in the film, because much of what they are saying will go straight over their heads. But, throw in shot after shot of scenery that has nothing to do with the film and utter confusion is created.

The most interesting part of the film is when the “economic hit man” is interviewed. According to this guy the entire Iraq war was fought because Saddam wanted to sell oil in a currency other than the dollar. Whether this is true or not I have no idea. The film never looks into this allegation, it just takes what this man is saying as the complete truth.

The financial crisis that has a hold on the world right now is something of the utmost importance for people to understand. But a film more focused on explaining the situation in layman's terms is greatly needed.

The Reckoning

Another documentary, but this time the focus is on the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Created just recently, the ICC is in charge of prosecuting people who conduct war crimes with relative impunity within their own countries.

The Reckoning is the story of how the court was founded and its struggle for survival as superpowers like China, Russia, and the United States refuse to join its coalition of countries.

Again, I will not pretend to be an expert on the foreign policy. So, I will not say whether or not I think the US should join the ICC. The Reckoning makes a good argument about why they should, but it also shows how much of a bureaucratic mess the court is. It has so many restrictions that it has to work within, and when it issues arrest warrants it doesn’t actually have an agency that enforces those warrants. The arresting depends on the country where the criminal is located, which doesn’t always work out so well.

What I got from the film is that the ICC is a good thing for those people who live in countries that don’t have a government or judicial system that functions well enough to prosecute criminals. There is some bashing of the previous administration in the film. Whether or not that criticism is warranted is an individual decision, one which I will not comment on in this review. I will leave that up to the viewer.

The stories about the genocides in Africa are horrendous. Be aware that you will see some very gruesome photos. You get the feeling that something needs to be done, and that it’s good that someone is trying to bring justice to the perpetrators of these atrocities. You wonder if the ICC is the way to do that, but it’s hard to come to that conclusion from watching the film

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