Film Review: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE (USA 2017) ***

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Thank You for Your Service Poster

Trailer

A group of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq struggles to integrate back into family and civilian life, while living with the memory of a war that threatens to destroy them long after they’ve left the battlefield.

Director:

Jason Hall

Writers:

David Finkel (based on the book by), Jason Hall (screenplay) (as Jason Dean Hall)

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.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50LQGcb5knE

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HARDCODE HENRY, Movie Review

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hardcorehenryHARDCORE HENRY (USA/Russia 2016) **
Directed by Ilya Naishuller

Starring: Sharlto Copley, Tim Roth, Haley Bennett

Review by Gilbert Seah

Ilya Naishuller’s HARDCORE HENRY, produced by Timur Bekmambetov, best known as the director of the Russian action sci-fi big production NIGHT WATCH trilogy moves along with the same pace as Timur’s films, and like them, boredom sets in pretty fast. In HARDCORE HENRY, the novelty of the gimmick film begins to wane after 15 minutes or so.

But still credit should be given to wunderkind music video wiz director Ilya Naishuller for his ingenuity and hard work in keeping his film consistent. And it is difficult work, undoubtedly.

HARDCORE HENRY is shot form the point of view of the protagonist, Hardcore Henry a half man half machine, resurrected from the dead by his British wife (Haley Bennett) for whatever reason that is never made clear, just as it is not made clear why the spouse is a Brit.

The camera acts as if placed in his eyes and as Henry moves around fighting punks, a dozen a minute, as the audience gets to see the beaten up victims, thrown around. The audience also gets to see Henry’s legs and arms and what the man would see. If Henry scales a wall, the audience has Henry’s point of view doing it. Unfortunately, because of the mishap of the past, Henry is unable to speak at the start. Also, Henry is at odds as what is gong on, and why everyone is trying to kill him, led athirst by a guy called Akan (Danila Kozlovsky). Also, a weird guy called Jimmy (Shalto Copley) keeps appearing at odd times, trying to help, or is he?

HARDCORE HENRY does have a good start though. The audience experiences Henry as his arms and legs are screwed on to him, just as he is voice activated by his wife. Suddenly the lab or hospital as the case may be is stormed by Akan. Henry and his wife are propelled out in some space module from a spaceship of some sort. It all works so amazingly, but only till then. It is 15 minutes into the movie.

One big problem of the film is the audience kept in the dark just as much as Henry is. Naishuller make no qualms that action in his film with his camera techniques are his priorities. It is therefore frustrating right up to the very end of the film where nothing is yet explained. Naishuller teases the audience too much, especially with the Jimmy character.

HARDCORE HENRY surprisingly won the Toronto International Film Festival Midnight Madness Public Award for Best Film. Obviously, Naishuller’s film caters to a different crowd than to me, as well as I would think to most critics. The film feels like a video game and it would be assumed more suitable for audiences favouring that vocation.

There must have been a reason films have never been made before from the protagonist’s point of view as in HARDCORE HENRY. A close cousin to this film would be the found footage films with shaky camera that can also be terribly annoying films to watch. The latter has taken a form of success in low budget horror films and this tactic may take off in low budget action film.

The recent MIDNIGHT SPECIAL can be described as a no-nonsense yarn while HARDCORE HENRY as a total nonsense yarn

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