This is a very upsetting film, with a lot of troubling issues explored in just under two hours, and while it won’t be an easy-sit for many viewers, Thank You For Your Service is both timely and timeless, a portrait of those who need help but can’t easily attain it for any number of reasons, and what it says about how the United States government treats its veterans is absolutely appalling and egregious. PTSD and the after-effects of the “war on terrorism” isn’t a popular subject with many people, and sadly, too many people drag in their own ideological and political beliefs into these types of film, regardless of content, and despite the fact that many times, the filmmakers have made the effort to remain clear-eyed and objective.
Directed with an upfront and direct sense of pain, anger, and frustration by first-time helmer Jason Hall, who previously wrote the devastating screenplay for Clint Eastwood’s forceful Iraq war drama American Sniper, the film takes a realistic approach to its characters and situations, which only heightens the intensity. In adapting David Finkel’s book of the same name, Hall yet again displays a deep understanding of the warrior and solider psyche, without resorting to cheap jingoism or unnecessary histrionics. This is definitely an attempt at making a Coming Home-esque piece about one of the longest, and most debated military excursions in history, and I think it’s a damn shame that this movie was ignored by just about everyone.
The narrative rests on the shoulders of Miles Teller, who yet again delivered a lived-in and totally committed performance; he seemingly can’t miss with his taste in his material, despite his films not really delivering at the box-office (this effort came and went in less than three weeks). Haley Bennett shines as Teller’s wife, who has to come to grips with the fact that her husband will never be the same man that he was before he went off to war. Beulah Koale, Omar Dorsey, Joe Cole, Amy Schumer, Brad Beyer and Keisha Castle-Hughes all offer strong support, and by the conclusion, the viewer will hopefully come to the understanding that this story can’t just “end” – it’s never going to simply “end” when you face demons such as these.
Cinematographer Roman Vasyanov (Fury, The Wall, End of Watch) does a low-key stylish job behind the camera, shooting in widescreen and crafting some very poetic images which makes for an interesting contrast in relation to the inherent darkness of the story. Thomas Newman’s heartfelt score doesn’t ladle on too much musical syrup – Hall’s words and visuals and his actor’s performances are all enough that music becomes unnecessary in certain spots. Available on Blu-ray, DVD, and via various streaming providers.
Review by Nick Clement