The hardest job in the military is the Casualty Notification Team. These are the men that travel to soldier’s family’s houses to deliver the news of the death of their partner, child or sibling. After taking shrapnel, Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery has be transitioned to this undesirable role. Aided in transition by Captain Tony Stone, Will struggles to adjust to a more civilian life and take on the task of delivering devastating news. He approaches the home of Olivia Pitterson, who’s husband had been killed in action. Unaware of how he would react to her notification, he develops an immediate attachment to the widow and her son. Even with an unlikely friendship developing between the lost souls, Will’s friendship with Tony provides the connection he thought he needed but the challenge to his humanity.
Starring: Ben Foster (Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery), Woody Harrelson (Captain Tony Stone), Jena Malone (Kelly), Eamonn Walker (Colonel Stuart Dorsett), Steve Buscemi (Dale Martin), Samantha Morton (Olivia Pitterson), Jahmir Duran-Abreau (Matt Pitterson)
This film maintains a solemn feel from start to finish and certainly channels most of that emotion through its main character, played by Ben Foster. There are moments of anger and frustration, but Foster mostly highlights the damages of war and moments of grief he experienced independently and with Olivia. His partner, played by Woody Harrelson, provides the more seasoned representative of the Casualty Notification Team. While he seems to be more adjusted to the role and serves as the guiding developer for Will, the horrors of war have affected him to his core. Harrelson provides periodic outbursts and self-destructive moments to provide a significant flaw to his mostly confident personality. Samantha Morton plays Olivia, who is privately racked by grief but stays more focused on moving on with her quiet life and masking her pain. Similar to Foster, Morton holds a solemn persona from start to finish.
The horrors of war seem to be more significant when the soldiers return home. Oren Moverman presents the psychological side of military experience. Foster and Stone both present different moments in the film where they struggle with the emotional memory of their war experiences bursting front and center. Toward the beginning of the film, Will highlights his lack of skill to notify families of their loved ones passing with a lack of a psychological background or grief management training. In essence, he hardly received any support and then was being expected to have recovered from the war and manage the stress of delivering the devastating news to others. This film recognizes the damaging emotional effects of going to war and the lack of accountability of the military to support and respect their soldiers after their service.
I appreciated the indirect challenge of this movie to highlight the incomplete support of the military, but the solemn atmosphere will take a bit of an emotional toll on you by the end of the film.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5