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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Film Review: ONLY THE BRAVE (USA 2017) ***1/2

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Only the Brave Poster
Trailer

Based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite firefighters risk everything to protect a town from a historic wildfire.

Director:

Joseph Kosinski

Writers:

Sean Flynn (based on the GQ article “No Exit” by), Ken Nolan

 

Warning: This review contains spoilers.  Spoilers are highlighted in italics

ONLY THE BRAVE, based on true events is a tough American biographical action disaster drama that tells the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.  The Hotshots are an elite crew of firefights that have first rights in the front lines to stopping fires (in decision and execution).  A local Arizona firefighting team finally gain qualification as hotshots under the leadership of Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin).

ONLY THE BRAVE is a disaster film not unlike THE TOWERING INFERNO.  It is one of the better firefighting films compared to past successes like John Wayne’s THE HELLFIGHTERS and Ron Howard’s BACKDRAFT.   A well balanced script by Ken Nolan (the excellent BLACKHAWK DOWN) and Eric Warren Singer (AMERICAN HUSTLE) ties in the human drama to the action.  As the ad goes: “It’s not what stands in front of you; It’s who stands beside you.”

There are a few human dramas on display.  They seems superfluous at the start but the actors and script hammer at the material till it finally grows on you.  The main one involves the chief Eric Marsh and the sacrifice his marriage to his wife, Amanda (Jennifer Connelly) has taken.  She sees him only 10% of the time and she wants a change in their lives.  The other deals with hot shot youngster, an ex-addict, Brendan (Miles Teller) who joins the firefighters in order to support his daughter that has resulted from an unexpected pregnancy.    Brendan is given a chance by Eric who calls him ‘donut’.  The confrontation scene between Eric and Amanda strikes fireworks.

ONLY THE BRAVE marks the other kind of action hero film – the ones (like the recent PATRIOT’S DAY) that involve real life heroes in real life events.  These are the kind of heroes America needs these days, in times of terrorist attacks in a world gone crazy.   ONLY THE BRAVE celebrates true heroes and real people in an excellent executed film.  The fire scenes are authentic, as director Kosinski has said in an interview that he had gone for authenticity.

Great performances all around, particularly from Brolin and Jeff Bridges.  Miles Teller delivers another winning performance as a bad-ass character – annoying in the beginning, but capturing the heart of the audience by the end.

For such a serious topic, the script inserts a few metaphors (like the burning bear – a terrifying yet beautiful sight) and some needed honour.  The best and funniest line is the advice given by Duane Steinbrink (the Bridges character) to Eric: “You must know what you can live with and what you can die without.”  Even Duane does not know what it really means!

The climax of the film involves the Granite Mountain Hotshots (as they then call themselves) fighting the out-of-control Yarnell Hill Fire in the June of 2013.  Those who know the history will recall the sacrifice these firefighters made in order to control the fire and save lives.  Kosinski’s film ends up a tearjerker, so make sure you bring lots of Kleenex.  But these are tears well shed.  ONLY THE BRAVE is a worthy tribute, and as the words emphasize during the losing credits dedicated to the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE_GY6zccqc

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