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Thank You For Your Service – Movie Review

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Thank You For Your Service – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

Even as civilians have a degree of respect for soldiers returning home from a war, there is still little understanding of the trauma they find themselves dealing with. Thank You For Your Service takes a serious look at how PTSD affects soldiers in different ways. Director/writer Jason Hall finds himself returning to the subject matter of his American Sniper screenplay, but with a less jingoistic bent. He handles the tricky waters with the needed admiration for these soldiers. While there are some combat scenes, this is not a war film in the traditional sense. This smartly focuses on the effects of war on those who fight in them and Hall and his actors create the proper sympathy for these men.

The three main actors playing the soldiers share a genuine camaraderie on-screen and that makes one of them eventually committing suicide all the more heartbreaking for them. This is early on in the film, thus creating an uncertainty about the other two. They each have their own individual problems and demons to face and Hall gives proper time to them. Miles Teller gets the majority of screen time and gives his strongest performance to date. He displays the difficulty facing Adam Schumann primarily internally, but he does let the rage and tears come out, when needed. Beulah Koale also displays solid work and the support they give each other is a touching one.

Thankfully, their wives are given the proper screen time. We see Saskia Schumann’s frustration at not knowing quite where her husband’s mind is and Haley Bennett portrays that side exceptionally well. Keisha Castle-Hughes similarly portrays the fear of not knowing when Koale will burst at any second. We’re sympathetic for both the husbands and wives. Amy Schumer also shows some solid dramatic acting chops as a widow in grief, even if it does feel like a good chunk of her scenes have been cut out. Nonetheless, it’s good this doesn’t merely become a story of boys and men, but about how the women play important roles in their post-war lives, too.

Hall more than handles the transition from screenwriter to director. One almost wonders how he would have handled American Sniper differently than Clint Eastwood. A couple of superfluous scenes, including an odd detour to a dog fight, make the final cut, but he otherwise shows a clear command of how to properly tell this story. When he shows the combat scenes, they are not directed in an obvious action way and they don’t overpower the story. They exist to develop and showcase why the soldiers were affected the way they were. Hall is able to balance the difficult subject matter and he shows a lot of promise as a director.

While Thank Your For Your Service is certainly patriotic, it doesn’t go for the obvious chest-beating “Ain’t America Great?” vibe. The film shows the problems that can face returning troops and what can happen when they’re not given the care they need. This shows the consequences of war on the young men who fight in them. Thank You For Your Service even works a solid companion piece to another recent Miles Tellers real life drama, Only the Brave. However, while that film was about the friendships forged in a team unit, this one tackles the trauma that can come from losing loved ones in a battlefield.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison