A Difficult Homecoming: Thank You for Your Service
It's not always easy for a soldier to make the final from the war front to the civilian front. Thank You For Your Service takes a look at the lives of several former soldiers who return to Kansas for good following a deployment in Iraq. The movie primarily follows Adam Schumann (Miles Teller), a sergeant whose regiment faced some heavy fighting. Like others who experienced the fighting, Schumann experiences some post-traumatic stress disorder as he and his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett) try and renew acquaintances and raise their son and daughter with his Army days with his Army days now behind him. Fellow soldier Tausolo Aieti (Beulah Koale), who often went on missions with Schumann, wants to keep serving, but cannot get clearance to do another tour. A third soldier, Billy Waller (Joe Cole), finds his house empty and his family gone. Unable to cope, he tracks down his ex-girlfriend at her work and kills himself in front of her.
Waller's suicide brings two incidents from the tour to the forefront of Adam's mind. First, fellow sergeant Janes Doster (Brad Beyer) takes Adam's place on one patrol. When an IED causes their Humvee to erupt into flames, Doster dies in the fire. Doster's widow, Amanda (Amy Schumer), who's close friends with Saskia, presses Adam for answers about that fatal day. Doster's mother even gives Adam a number of a place where he can get treatment. Second, Schumann, in an effort to get his men to safety, instead leads them into an ambush. When Michael Emory (Scott Haze) is badly wounded, Schumann takes him away from the firing. However, Schumann drops Emory in the process, and he nearly dies. Aieti, meanwhile, gets involved with Dante (Omar Dorsey), a vet who served in the Gulf War. That arrangement goes wrong when Solo gets an important call from his wife, Alea (Keisha Castle-Hughes), that Solo finds himself unable to ignore.
Thank You For Your Service marks the directorial debut of Jason Hall, who also wrote the screen treatment based on David Finkel's non-fiction book of the same name. Previously, Hall had written the Oscar-nominated screen treatment of American Sniper, which Clint Eastwood directed. As was the case with American Sniper, Hall deals with soldiers coming home, staying home, and trying to deal with the worst moments of their tour. Hall seems to have learned a lot from Eastwood, and copies Eastwood to an extent. For example, Chris Kyle, who was played by Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, had a hard time dealing with civilian life, and admitting his service overseas had an adverse effect on him. Adam, and especially Solo, feel the same way. Thank You For Your Service also deals with certain issues of closure about the time in country, which reminds me of the similar issues faced by some soldiers at the center of Eastwood's Flags Of Our Fathers. Hall handles the material in a straightforward fashion than Eastwood, who mixes his stories with a bit of cynicism about the soldiers' treatment. Hall, like Eastwood, is reverent to the servicemen and their issues, but Hall comes across as a bit more ordinary in his handling of the material.
The best parts of the movie show the bond that Adam and Saskia as he works through his issues. Teller and Bennett do very good work as that couple. Teller, as Adam, realizes he's lost in his domestic situation, but never stops trying to get to a place where he can be at peace and be a good husband, father, and provider. At times, he scares Saskia when he experiences his flashbacks, and Adam doesn't always have the best attention span. As he tries to understand his issues, he never loses a sense of duty to his fellow troops. Bennett, as Saksia, fights to get back a man who's still, in some ways, in Iraq. She encourages Adam to speak instead of remaining silent about his time in the war zone. She keeps the household together and promises they will deal with Adam's PTSD as a couple. Schumer, who has made her mark as a comedian, shows her dramatic side effectively as Amanda, a war widow in need of closure. Koale also stands out as a Samoa-born soldier whose problems take him down a dark path.
Thank You For Your Service shows the aftermath that Adam Schumann and those who served with him faced when they reached the end of their final tour of duty. They kept reliving the worst moments of the conflict, and find the resources of an overloaded Veterans Administration limited. Taking care of his men doesn't stop just because Sgt. Schumann has been discharged. These returning troops have a bit of a support system, but these men have found a new battle for peace on the home front.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Thank You For Your Service three stars. A salute to the men engaged in an extended fight.