One of the things that works so well for "Thank You for Your Service" is that it finds the balance between social commentary and showing respect for the soldiers at the center of the story without ever feeling preachy. Don't get me wrong: the movie is not afraid to act as an indictment towards to treatment of soldiers back at home. Writer-director Jason Hall (the Oscar-nominated scribe of "American Sniper") knows when it is important to raise the issue and shine a light upon it, rather than play it up for dramatic flair.
We've seen countless war films - sometimes it feels like there are a few a year - but the subject of PTSD isn't as heavily explored as it once was (think "The Deer Hunter," "Born on the Fourth of July," or "Coming Home"). The majority of "Thank You for Your Service" keeps us off the battlefield and in the day-to-day lives of the soldiers, who are trying to find their place at home once they return.
Miles Teller stars as decorated Sgt. Adam Schumann, who returns home to his wife, Saskia (Haley Bennett), and their two young children. He tries to put a smile on and assimilate back into daily life with a family, but Adam is plagued by a crippling sense of guilt for things that happened in Iraq on his watch. Lives were lost, and Adam spends every waking moment blaming himself for the fallen soldiers.
Adam feels like a stranger in his home and spends a lot of time with his fellow vet and friend Solo (Beulah Koale), who might be having an even harder time getting accustomed to being back. Adam, always putting the responsibility on himself, focuses a great deal on helping Solo and not always putting himself before anyone else.
It would have been easy for Hall to play everything up to the point of heightened melodrama but he mostly forgoes histrionics for contemplative moments of grief and guilt. In one therapy session at the V.A., Adam is told there is no cure for trauma but there are ways to manage it. "Thank You for Your Service" cares for its characters and charts their steps in managing what's going on within. The movie never claims to understand a soldier's mindset but does offer empathy and a window into their souls for a mainstream audience.
Coming off playing a firefighter in "Only the Brave," Teller tackles another important topic with grace. His performance in "Thank You for Your Service" feels much more layered and lived-in than anything he has done before. Those who have seen the young actor's work have witnessed the evolution of Teller, and his performance here harkens back to his role in "Rabbit Hole," which was his first performance to draw attention. Everyone is deeply internalized and told through his eyes, packing an even harder punch when he gets more expressive.
It's worth noting that Amy Schumer pops up for two scenes (as well as being in a few background scenes) as a wife desperate to know how her husband died. It's a brief but effective role, giving a glimpse of Schumer's range and her ability to do more than her normal routine.
"Thank You for Your Service" is a solid and well-acted drama. It's a bit of a discussion-starter and worthy of your time as a salute to those who served. We know war is hell but the movie reminds us everything that comes after it can be too.
|Movie title||Thank You for Your Service|
|Summary||This PTSD-focused drama find the balance between offering social commentary and showing respect for the soldiers whose story it tells.|