‘Thank You For Your Service’ Details Harrowing Trials of Iraq Vets Dealing With PTSD
With the Iraq War hardly a distance memory, “American Sniper” screenwriter Jason Hall returns with “Thank You For Your Service,” his directorial debut, another film detailing the hardships faced by veterans of this conflict, but with this time the focus being on the battles fought at home. Based on the nonfiction book of the same name by journalist David Finkel, the film follows a trio of soldiers after their return home. Adam (the always great Miles Teller), Solo (Beulah Koale) and Will (Joe Cole), we come to learn, are all dealing with varying degrees of PTSD, with Adam especially suffering from survivor’s guilt due to his have been partly responsible for the injury of one soldier under his command, Emory (Scott Haze), and the death of another, Doster (Brad Beyer). Minutes after he steps off the plane and onto American soil following his third and final tour in Iraq, before he can even greet his family, Adam is confronted by Amanda Doster (a glammed-down Amy Schumer in a dramatic turn), desperate for details about her husband’s final moments, setting the tone for the rest of a film that deals with what a veteran faces after the welcome home parade ends.
Predictably, there’s a period of readjustment for Adam as he tries to reintegrate himself into his family’s domestic routine. His loving wife, Saskia (Haley Bennett), does her best to remain patient, enthusiastically welcoming him back into their home and bedroom, despite some tensions. Things go smoother with the other lady in his life, his little girl, Zoe (Stella Pileggi), despite his not knowing that she no longer likes chocolate; when it comes to his baby son, however, bonding doesn’t come as easy. There’s also the obstacle of finding gainful employment in a recession.
The situations are more harrowing for Will and Solo, Will especially, as he comes home to discover that his fiancee (Erin Drake) has left cruelly left him without so much as a note, taking with her the daughter he helped raise, leaving him to resort to drastic measures in a shocking scene. Solo, the only one who wants to get back to active duty, has to deal with the trauma of a brain injury. His wife, Alea (gifted and versatile Oscar-nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes), soon becomes pregnant, remaining somewhat ignorant to the extent of her husband’s mental illness before it’s too late, as he goes down a dark path that starts off as him as a spectator at a dogfight (a scene that will make any animal lover cringe) to some illegal dealings.
“Thank You For Your Service” definitely has its weak points. A lot of the dialogue comes off as trite and it certain points it feels as if Hall is just retreading the same territory we’ve already seen numerous times in films of this genre. But perhaps this message about veterans not receiving adequate help and support is one that needs to be heard again and again, especially in this current political climate. “Thank For Your Service” is not a political film; what it really does well is drive the point home of hard it is for vets to seek proper assistance, especially those whose injuries aren’t visible, due to the miles of red tape and hoops they have to jump through in order to receive those benefits. There’s an added stigma for Adam, who as an officer is told he has to put on a brave face and set an example for his men. Hall wisely waits until the end to reveal the full extent of Adam went through with a harrowing flashback sequence. Teller really shines here as he immerses himself in the role, becoming almost as recognizable from his previous roles.
“Thank You For Your Service” opens Oct. 27 nationwide.