Movie Review | The Messenger (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Freda Cooper 17.09.2015

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The Messenger (UK Rating: 15)

"I see dead people" is a line that's gone down in cinema history and new release The Messenger (in cinemas from Friday, 18th September) comes close to using it verbatim, which is unsurprising, given that this is a British take on the same idea, albeit in a lower key.

To the outside world, Jack (Robert Sheehan) is a social misfit, probably with a mental illness as he's frequently seen talking to himself, but that's not how he sees it. Yes, he's obsessed with mysterious deaths, but he also believes he's haunted by the ghosts of dead people who want to communicate with the people they left behind. Delivering these messages brings him to the attention of the police, as well as troubling his already fragile mind, and it all comes to a head with the murder of a local journalist.

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Jack's "gift" is more of a curse; the dark circles underneath his eyes and general scruffy appearance could be interpreted as signs of addiction, but it's all down to those ghosts. They don't just contact him, they appear in person and follow him around, but he's the only one who can see them, and parallels with The Sixth Sense continue through Jack's relationship with his young nephew who shows clear signs of having the same talent. Flashbacks showing Jack as a young boy are in the same vein, showing his father's suicide, his mother's second marriage, and his own unmanageable behaviour, which leads him to a care home.

As well as being derivative, The Messenger is a film that meanders around its subject with the result that it has very little to say about people who are cursed with the 'gift,' as it were. Worse still, it misses a huge opportunity to look at attitudes to mental illness and, instead, barely scratches the surface. Described as a horror/thriller, it falls short in both departments:  the thrills and chills are noticeable by their absence, yet it does have a hold, and that's because of Robert Sheehan's performance, which is essentially the glue that holds it together. He's so thin and fragile he could physically snap at any moment and his mind is perilously close to doing the same. This is acting with huge energy and commitment, and promises much for the future.

Rated 5 out of 10


Without Robert Sheehan, The Messenger would fall flat on its face. His magnetic performance is the reason for watching this otherwise disappointing, and derivative, piece of cinema that attempts to mimic a classic horror experience. Don't expect much in the way of shocks or thrills: they are not there. On many levels, this Messenger doesn't really deliver.

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