THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE is a biographical film based on true events (the closing credits reveal the pictures of the real characters) on the subject of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Returning after a war and adjustment back to civilian life has been dealt time again in films like the well-known THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, but few have dealt specifically with the Iraqi War.
The film opens appropriately with the cause of Sergeant Adam Schumann’s (Miles Teller) trauma. After a bomb goes off and injures fellow soldier Emory (Scott Haze), Adam fireman lift’s him down to safety. Well, almost. He drops him down the stairs resulting in some brain injury.
The film shifts to the return home. The homecoming is shown with the fanfare of waiting family and loved ones. The film centres on three soldiers, all of whom find things are not so smooth sailing. The other two are Solo (Beila Koale) and Will Waller (Joe Cole). Waller has it the worst when he finds himself abandoned by his wife who takes his child and empties his bank account. Waller shoot himself in front of her at the bank she works in. That part seems quite incredible, though it must have happened as in the non-fiction book of the same name written by David Finkel. The rest of the film follows the other two as they adapt to their PTSD.
The script is adapted by Jason Hall who won an Academy Award nomination for his adapted screenplay of AMERICAN SNIPER. When Steven Spielberg pulled out of the director’s reigns, Hall jumps in and makes his directorial debut.
The first time direction is obvious in the way the film unfolds in a safe, standard way predictable with no unexpected punches pulled. The obstacles preventing Solo and Adam from getting their psychiatric care are all there – the long queues; the red tape requiring proof; the waiting time; with the soldiers finally getting their way after some needed shouting and anger outbursts.
Miles Teller in the main role of Adam proves once again his ability to carry a film on his own. With recent rave reviews for his performances in films like WHIPLASH and the recent ONLY THE BRAVE, this film will add to his impressive resume. Of all the actors, comedian Amy Schumer (TRAINWRECK, COMEDY CENTRAL) is totally miscast in the serious role of the dead soldier’s wife, Armanda.
As for the rehabilitation of the soldiers, it seems too convenient that Adam is recovered after Armanda tells him that her dead husband wanted Adam to continue living, this removing Adam from the guilt he feels. The same kind of convenient removal of guilt occurs in the recent film STRONGER where the bomb victim rehabilitates after one meeting with the guy who helped in during the Boston. marathon bombing. But Hall’s script at least shows the long path towards recovery.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE is a heavy film with a heavy theme. One might argue that it is a story that needs be told – and that is right.