If you think your job is tough, try Will Montgomery's. Back home after being injured in Iraq, he's assigned the unenviable task of notifying the next of kin that their loved one has been killed in combat.

If you think your job is tough, try Will Montgomery's. Back home after being injured in Iraq, he's assigned the unenviable task of notifying the next of kin that their loved one has been killed in combat.

A war movie without one glimpse of the battlefield, The Messenger is noticeably quiet, trading gunfire and bomb blasts for the raw grief and despair of the wives and mothers and fathers who receive notification from Montgomery (Ben Foster) and his more-experienced partner, Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson).

Stone lays out the rules from the start - don't introduce yourself (it's not about you), stick to the script and, most importantly, no touching the next of kin. No hugging, no patting, no anything.

Each home visit plays out like a mini drama, our apprehension growing as we see the various awful ways grief manifests itself. And Will starts to break the rules more during each visit, most of all with Samantha Morton's widow, who he keeps finding reasons to visit.

Despite the subject, this isn't a tearjerker. Instead, first-time director Oren Moverman deftly balances the anguish with a darkly funny buddy comedy and a portrait of a young soldier coming to terms with his experience overseas.

With the field widened to 10, The Messenger is a likely candidate for a Best Picture nomination spot. And definitely expect to see a Best Supporting Actor nod for Harrelson, who's fantastic as a cynical veteran.