Film Review: Michael Cuesta's ' Kill The Messenger'.
Messenger delivers as taut suspense but fails to make Oscar grade.
Until now, director Michael Cuesta was known more for his work in the televisual serial arena. Cuesta has helmed episodes for mainstream shows such as Dexter, Six Feet Under and Homeland. For his first break-out movie credit however, Cuesta teams up with Jeremy Renner in crime drama, Kill The Messenger.
Kill The Messenger is a biographical adaptation based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb and his life after he exposed the CIA’s role in arming rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California. After Webb blows the whistle on the government, he is targeted by a smear campaign by those higher up in power, to silence his claims.
Cuesta’s first mainstream feature has all the hallmarks of your by-the-numbers crime story, with the element of real-life events perhaps giving it the edge over other, more impactful thrillers of the genre. This however, is also where Kill The Messenger falls short.
Jeremy Renner is rapidly becoming one of Hollywood’s more bankable movie leads, but moreover in an action thriller capacity alongside the likes of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Bourne Legacy and The Hurt Locker. But one man alone cannot carry a biopic, as general rule. Despite a cameo - of sorts - from Ray Liotta late on, the lack of a strong supporting lead elsewhere made it difficult for the movie to establish momentum.
‘Messenger’ is billed as a thriller, but except for a fleeting glimpse half-way through the piece, there was more suspense to be had than any other real sense of the word. That said, the movie is well paced and despite very little real explosiveness, the 1hr 52 minutes run time went by without any perceived lull or certainly any moment of boredom.
As a Hollywood feature film it was engrossing at times. It even has the shock factor with the end sequence for those unaware of the protagonist’s tale, also common with this years The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game, which makes Oscar’s final assembly of motion pictures slightly baffling, with the omission of this particular story.
Kill The Messenger received a large helping of Oscar buzz pre-award season and it was only relatively late on that it was consigned with the likes of Inherent Vice and A Most Violent Year to the shelf labelled, ‘also-rans’. Perhaps in a year rich with biographicals – some more infamous than others – Kill The Messenger was too similar a picture to include in the shake-up. But with Selma largely disappointing and with similar offerings by way of Argo coming in previous years, the Academy’s decision to overlook Michael Cuesta’s crime vehicle for the major accolades will always be more than a curiosity.