'Thank You For Your Service': Sensitive performances outshine flaws
(Review By Troy Ribeiro ; Rating: ***)
"Thank You For Your Service" is the directorial debut of actor-writer Jason Hall. The film is inspired from true stories and is based on the book of the same name authored by Washington Post Editor David Finkel.
The film is about three American soldiers suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) when they try to realign themselves in civilian society after their combat assignment and how these soldiers are left stranded to fight their own demons.
The narrative begins with a voice-over of the much decorated army man Adam Schumann (Miles Teller) stating, "I was a good soldier, I had purpose and I loved it." But that was during the war in Iraq.
Now he is on his way home after a harrowing tour of duty along the frontlines. He is accompanied by his buddies Tausolo Aeiti (Beulah Koale) aka 'Solo' and Billy Waller (Joe Cole). While everything seems hunk-dory on the surface, the three of them suffer from post-war psychological stress which is simmering beneath their strong exterior. The wartime incidents haunt them and manifest through nightmares, hallucination and suicidal tendencies.
"There is no cure for trauma" states one of the medical officers at the Department of Veteran Affairs, when Adam goes to seek help. How he then struggles to cope emotionally, forms the crux of the tale.
While the title of the film is sarcastically tongue-in-cheek, the film brings to the fore the indifferent attitude of the US Administration towards its war heroes and also pays a backhanded tribute to these soldiers' wives.
Visually, some of the scenes are shocking, gory and gruesome. But overall, the film offers nothing exceptional. In fact, the haunting images of war-torn Iraq are reminiscent of those seen in "American Sniper", which was directed by Clint Eastwood.
Miles Teller delivers a strong sensitive performance as Adam Schumann. With a stiff demeanour and delicate facial expressions, he manages to convey Adam's inner turmoil effortlessly. It is touching to see him simmering with guilt and blurt "choked on his blood and then f****** dropped him", when he speaks about his colleague Emory (Scott Haze).
He is aptly supported by Beulah Koale who renders an equally powerful performance as his buddy 'Solo'. Joe Cole as Billy Waller has his moment of on-screen glory as the subtly damaged soldier who shoots himself before his girlfriend in her office.
Similarly, Brad Bayer as Sergeant James Doster and Omar Dorsey as Dante, a veteran who now operates as a drug dealer, make their presence felt despite having miniscule roles.
Haley Bennett as Adam's wife Saskia Schumann, Castle-Hughes as Solo's wife Alea and Amy Schumer as Amanda Doster, Saskia's best friend and wife of Sergeant James Doster are all competent. Their performances resonate with the right attitude that makes each one of them stand out.
The song with the lyrics, "Some say freedom is free but I tend to disagree", performed by Bruce Springsteen, hits the right notes but seems wasted as it comes during the end credits.
Overall, despite some jarring edits and audio blips, the film manages to delve into the plight of the soldiers and get the audience hooked with some effective sequences which are realistic and traumatic.
DreamWorks Pictures’ Thank You for Your Service follows a group of U.S.
soldiers returning from Iraq who struggle 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.
Starring an ensemble cast led by Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Joe Cole, Amy Schumer, Beulah Koale, Scott Haze, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Brad Beyer, Omar J. Dorsey and Jayson Warner Smith, the drama is based on the bestselling book by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author David Finkel.
Jason Hall, who wrote the screenplay of American Sniper, makes his directorial debut with Thank You for Your Service and also serves as its screenwriter. Jon Kilik (The Hunger Games series, Babel) produces the film, while Ann Ruark (Biutiful) and Jane Evans (Sin City) executive produces.