Thank You For Your Service: The battle’s just begun

When war ends, new battles begin for soldiers returning home from combat.

Quite often the things they’ve seen, the experiences they’ve had fundamentally change who they are as a person and their ability to relate to those loved ones who never served.

These struggles strike at the core of writer/director Jason Hall’s “Thank You For Your Service,” a military drama based on real events that focuses on post-traumatic stress disorder among a small unit of soldiers serving in Iraq during the late 2000s.

The film follows three men (Miles Teller, Beulah Koale and Joe Cole) as they arrive back in the U.S. after events at the tail end of another tour of duty change everything.

With “Thank You For Your Service,” Teller proves why he’s one of Hollywood’s more underrated actors with a steady, nuanced performance as Adam.

He provides the quiet heartbreak of a man struggling with depression, but refusing to cave in and show his emotions to others.

In his eyes, it’s easy to see the desperation of a soldier unable to come to grips with the fallout of his time at war and incapable of relating to family members back at home.

Without ever really showing it, the inner dialogue of Teller’s Adam feels like it’s constantly imploring him to remain strong, do right and set an example for his brothers in arms when all he wants to do is break down. There’s a confidence and subtlety to the performance that

Teller genuinely relates to, making his work one of the year’s most powerful.
Newcomer Beulah Koale shines in a breakout role as Adam’s best friend, an American Samoan nicknamed “Solo.”

It’s always refreshing to see fresh faces go toe to toe while acting in scenes opposite more famous counterparts.

Koale rises to the occasion in every scene with Teller, providing a perfect counter-balance to Adam’s somber submission with a heart-wrenching spiral into depression.

Teller also has terrific on-screen chemistry with Haley Bennett, who plays military spouse better than most actresses have in similar films. Her Saskia feels compassion for her returning husband, but can’t understand why he won’t let her in.

There’s a lot of power to Bennett’s performance that elevates Hall’s surprisingly mediocre screenplay.

If there’s a true flaw within “Thank You For Your Service,” Amy Schumer feels largely out of place as a bereaved widow of one of Adam’s fellow soldiers. While she ably tries to bring levity to the material, it’s difficult to believe her performance thanks to her crude comedic career.

Though other comedians have successfully traversed the path from humor to drama, Schumer’s small work feels more like stunt casting for box office appeal rather than the right person for the role.

First time director Hall plays things largely safe with “Thank You For Your Service” and scenes often have that “Hollywood” shine to them that can pull audiences out of the authentic moment.

It’s difficult to determine whether that’s a result of a script not as polished as his “American Sniper” screenplay or the follies of a first-time leader at the helm of the film.

“Thank You For Your Service” comes at a perfect time with overhauling of the Department of Veterans Affairs expected under the Trump administration.

While the realism of the situation portrayed in the film is often rewarded with award season accolades, “Thank You For Your Service” isn’t a strong enough contender to garner much Oscar consideration this winter.

That being said, the film is a highly emotional, largely effective drama that’s going far too underseen.

Whether you catch it on the big screen or wait until it hits streaming services months from now, “Thank You For Your Service” touches on too important of a topic to miss out on.

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