Thank You for Your Service
2017, R, 108 min. Directed by Jason Hall. Starring Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Beulah Koale, Scott Haze, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Joe Cole, Amy Schumer, Omar J. Dorsey, Brad Beyer, Kate Lyn Sheil.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 27, 2017
They’re out of the war zone, but now that these soldiers have arrived back home, they’ve really landed in the shit. With a great sense of realism, Thank You for Your Service tackles the problems of PTSD and social neglect experienced by veterans returning from the war in Iraq. While overseas, the men in Thank You for Your Service had purpose, but back home they have difficulties fitting back in and are haunted by those who never made it back. The wives here are compassionate, but lack the skills needed to help their spouses deal with their traumas; the Department of Veterans Affairs hands them paperwork and doles out a place in line to receive psychological assistance in, perhaps, nine months at the earliest. Left to their own resources, these soldiers’ sagas have few happy endings.
Thank You for Your Service is the directing debut of Jason Hall, who wrote the screenplay for Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. Hall also wrote this screenplay, which he adapted from David Finkel’s book. Like American Sniper, Thank You for Your Service opens on a rooftop in Iraq, although it diverges from the earlier film after that point. Three soldiers return to their homes in Kansas. Will (Cole) discovers his fiancée and all his possessions in the wind; Solo (Koale), an American Samoan, desires only to return for another tour since that’s the only time he feels at peace; and Adam Schumann (Teller), the most ostensibly stable man among them, is nevertheless beset by terrors and problems adjusting to his role as the man he’s become rather than the kid he was when he left. Miles Teller (Whiplash, Only the Brave) is tremendously well cast in another muscular but sensitive role, but the real breakout here is Beulah Koale, whose expressive face reveals Solo’s anguish and befuddlement. (The character wishes he had visible wounds or missing limbs because that’s the only way he feels he’d be recognized as a war hero.) Sadly, Amy Schumer is miscast in a dramatic role as a war widow, although it’s impossible to know whether she just doesn’t have the chops or whether we expect jokes, not tears, to come forth.
Some small moments are extremely effective (scenes at the VA are quietly devastating, a visit to a permanently injured buddy exudes heart rather than bathos, marital tension erupts into a fight that ends when the wife calls 911 for protection, for a few examples). Others (fists through walls, saving a dog, a third-act criminal sideline) reek of war cliches and some creaky scripting. An original song by Bruce Springsteen encourages viewers to stick around through the credits. At its best, Thank You for Your Service is The Best Years of Our Lives for the modern generation of war veterans.
The AMC Barton Creek Square is offering free admission to the film Thu., Oct. 26, 7pm, for the first 25 servicemembers with a valid military ID.