By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Filmmaker Jason Hall, the writer who adapted Chris Kyle’s American Sniper book for director Clint Eastwood, makes his directorial debut with a true story about U.S. soldiers returning home from a tremendously arduous tour in Iraq. While American Sniper does deal with the problem of posttraumatic stress disorder, it mainly focuses on his experiences while serving multiple tours. Thank You for Your Service does just the opposite of that by dedicating most of its story to the psychological battles and the difficulties faced by soldiers and veterans seeking treatment and counseling for PTSD and other war wounds. The result is a truly powerful and emotionally charged movie which reminds audiences how hard it is to be war veteran.
After serving a tour of duty in Baghdad, Adam Schumann (Miles Teller), Will Waller (Joe Cole) and Tausolo Aieti (Beulah Koale) are returning home to their families and significant others. This last tour was one of their more difficult ones, as the buddies lose one soldier of their unit in battle. Also, another soldier almost dies, but survives with a debilitating injury. As the soldiers try to reconnect with their loved ones, they have trouble erasing the horrific images of war in their minds and each feels a tremendous amount of guilt for their friend’s death and the other’s injury. When they can no longer deal with the PTSD they are experiencing, they seek out help from the Veterans Administration, but find that bureaucratic process a long and burdensome one.
Based on the nonfiction book of the same name by David Finkel, Thank You for Your Service is a movie that pulls no punches and serves as a passionate yell for help for all war veterans battling the demons of war. With American Sniper, Jason Hall had already proved himself as a talented screenwriter. With his latest adaptation, he continues to shows his writing skills, but shows some great proficiency as a director. Hall has a real gift for writing and developing men characters, particularly those who have served in the military. He does a fantastic job of showing the true vulnerable side of a soldier and the difficulties a soldier has readjusting to life after war. I was somewhat impressed with his directing skills, but did also notice some questionable moments in the film. There are few scenes where the takes didn’t feel like the best work of the actors and a couple of moments where the movie didn’t flow as well. Still, despite this small handful of issues, the movie works well as a whole and doesn’t lose much of its overall impact. And the impact is one that is sure to break hearts, make people shed some tears, but more importantly. remind them that veterans need more help than they are getting and need it faster and more efficiently.
The talented actors cast for the film deliver such impressive performances that they also help in reminding the audiences that these soldiers are real people suffering and not just artificial characters generated for entertainment. Beulah Coale gives a powerful turn as Solo Aieti, an American Samoan who not only suffers from PTSD, but also other medical problems caused by war injuries. Solo refuses to face reality and seeks other illegal ways to deal with his demons and medical complications. Will Waller also gives a heartbreaking performance as Joe Cole, a soldier clinging onto a perfect vision of his future back home, but faces some soul-crushing reality instead. Miles Teller shines once again as Adam Schumann, a soldier who wants to leave the military behind so that he can remain safe at home with his wife ( a wonderful Hailey Bennett) and children, but cannot shake the guilt he feels for his survival while others have either died or suffered irreparable injuries. The movie also features great work by an impressive Amy Schumer (in what his her most serious role so far), Keisha Castle-Hughes and Scott Haze.
Now, Thank You for Your Service is not an easy movie to watch at times, but is definitely an important one. Sure there have been other movies for many years which deal with the troubles of being a war veteran, but I feel that the general public who have not served in war need to be reminded of this often. I know that treating military for PTSD and other problems requires a lot of work and funding, but there is a definite need and it is a moral necessity. As long as women and men sacrifice their lives and sanity for the U.S. government, they will definitely deserve the much needed help afterward. The fact, that Hall’s movie and Finkel’s book are one of many media which have told similar stories, shows that for many generations that American war veterans are still not getting the help they need.