Hot Take: Surprisingly good fact-based film is just one more reminder that war is hell even after war time ends.
As of today, Thank You For Your Service is in my top 10 movies for 2017. While that has a lot to do with the quality of the best films of 2017 so far and it’s highly unlikely it finishes in the top 10, Thank You For Your Service is an insightful, sobering look at the PTSD that affects our soldiers and how their path home often leaves them neglected and forgotten. In his directorial debut, American Sniper screenwriter Jason Hall also adapts this screenplay from a 2013 book of the same name by David Finkel. It shares many of the elements of Sniper without the rock star elements of making its soldiers war heroes. The men who served our country at the heart of Thank You For Your Service are the focal point of the film not their actions at war which are only used as exposition to show how these men have become a shell of themselves thanks to the torment and horrors of the war they fought.
Starring Miles Teller as Staff Sergeant Adam Schumann, Thank You For Your Service tells the story of three soldiers and their post-war struggles with dealing with the PTSD that tormented them after their stint in the Iraq War. It focuses even more on the lack of attention they receive from the government upon their return and the hopelessness they face as they reach out for help but fail to receive any from the Department of Veterans Affairs which is in place to help returning soldiers. Teller is joined by Beulah Koale and Joe Cole who play Specialist Tausolo Aieti and Billy Waller as they are returned home after their latest stint. Waller returns home to find his house empty and his fiancee (Kate Lyn Sheil) gone. Aieti wants to be redeployed but his latest medical check is a failure and his wife (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is pregnant. Aieti is tormented by images of Doster (Brad Beyer), one of his fallen brothers, and struggles with other unresolved psychological issues. Then there’s Schumann who gets home to his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett) and their two children and while he’s tortured by dropping a wounded soldier while carrying him out of a war zone and feeling remorse for letting Doster take his place in their Humvee the day after Schumann dropped the soldier. While Adam and Saskia struggle to reconnect, Adam also takes it upon himself to try and help Aieti get attention for his disorder.
Thank You For Your Service is yet another fact-based film telling a worthy tale. While the cinema feels a little oversaturated with war films, this specific film does a great job of focusing on post-war soldier life rather than glamorizing the horrors of war. Even the few battle scenes that find it’s way into the film are less than gratifying. Teller and Bennett’s characters end up being the focal point of the story and the actors have believable chemistry as the couple under emotional distress. The film sheds light on how easily forgotten our war Veterans can be. It’s an often sad, emotionally heavy story and well told by Hall as both the writer and director. The film also gives attention to the families and the women of Thank You For Your Service also get some quality screen time and have some impactful scenes. While this will be an unpopular opinion, Thank You For Your Service, not Dunkirk, is the best war movie of 2017, so far.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Teller… Again
Teller shines as the tormented, disconnected Schumann and continues to quietly build an impressive resume of performances. His breakout was obviously 2014’s Whiplash but since then, he’s turned in strong performances as boxer Vinny Pazienza in Bleed for This and turned in the best performance in this year’s Only the Brave. He’s also been attached to some real duds during that time (anything involving the Divergent Series, Fantastic Four and War Dogs) so there’s proof that nobody’s perfect.
- Amy Schumer In A Dramatic Role
It’s not a great performance by Schumer but as Doster’s widow Amanda, Schumer shares a couple of moments on screen with Teller that are very impactful in telling the story.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- It’s Tough to Stand Out In Such An Oversaturated Genre
Films about soldiers are a dime a dozen. It’s at least the 5th war film this year which makes them almost as common as superhero flicks. It’s hard to watch Thank You For Your Service without comparing it to other war films which challenges Thank You For Your Service to stand out which, for some, it won’t.