Thank You For Your Service
Starring: Miles Teller, Beulah Koale, Haley Bennett
Directed by: Jason Hall
Written by: Jason Hall, David Finkel
When a person watches a movie, they’re usually looking for a story with an ending. When a nation goes to war, they’re probably looking for an equally satisfying conclusion. The credits roll, and you consider the story you just took in. The fighters come home after vanquishing the objectively evil foe, and everyone gets on with life without any repercussions. Thank You For Service not only holds your attention on how incredibly ignorant that mindset of conflict is, but holds your nose to it as you watch three soldiers return to a home that no longer has a place for them, while never giving you an iota of catharsis.
The amazing thing about Thank You For Your Service is that outside of the broad strokes, the plot points are largely irrelevant. What director/writer Jason Hall and writer David Finkel manage is more of a portrait of lives we know are being lived right now tens of thousands of times over. Three soldiers are rotated back from the front in a war most can’t really understand. Schumann (Miles Teller) Aieti (Beulah Koale) and Waller (Joe Cole) arrive happy to be home, if not more than a bit rattled by recent loses and injuries to their comrades. Schumann is greeted by a family he loves but barely knows. Aieti has a wife that is desperate for him to give up the military life and start a family with her. Waller’s expected welcome by his sexy fiance quickly spins into a nightmare scenario.
From there, we’re led down the sad path of soldiers trying to put their lives back together. No help. No money. Substance abuse. All while everyone your trust and the world, in general, expects you to conform to what they want or need from you. Thank You For Your Service isn’t about the war they’re sent off to, but the unwinnable war they come back to.
In one scene that really struck a chord with me, Schumann and Aieti are confronted by a medal-clad officer while waiting in line at Veteran’s Affairs. The officer leans in and asks Schumann not to let others see his weakness. In fact, many of the supporting characters see the injury of PTSD as a sign of weakness. Everything from the wife that screams at her husband to come back and automatically be the perfect father, lover and provider, to the larger society who couldn’t care less that getting any help from V.A. takes months or longer.
Verdict: Watch It. Thank You For Your Service isn’t a nice movie with a nice ending. Sorry to spoil it, but Schumann, Aieti and Waller aren’t cured of their broken lives and fragmented psyches by the time the credits roll, and that’s very important. The movie is begging the viewer to understand how crippling and critical this issue is for our civilization without becoming a sappy infomercial. If you have it in you to drop your expectations and feel your way through a story of a numbing, crippling injury that society has yet to even fully grasp, then Thank You For Your Service will be a rewarding experience.