Jason Hall earned an Oscar nomination for penning American Sniper, which not only did well at the box office, but became the highest-grossing domestic film of 2014. Despite being an eye-opening experience for many audiences, it wasn’t the first film to explore what veterans endure after intense combat. We’ve seen this subject matter before in Coming Home, Born on the Fourth of July, and The Best Years of Our Lives. Of course the fact that we’re still getting movies like this just goes to show how little has changed over the years. If anything, we can always use more films about why soldiers need our support as they reenter civilian life.
Thank You for Your Service, which Hall both wrote and directed, is another strong film about the side effects of war. It’s not as powerful as American Sniper and likely won’t go down as one of the genre’s all time greats. It suffers from a few pacing issues and has one too many characters. At its best, though, it’s a movie that hits home and will resonate with anybody that comes from a military family. Above all else, Hall has crafted a humble, honest picture that avoids taking cheap shots.
Based on the book by David Finkel, the film stars Miles Teller as Sergeant Adam Schumann. Upon returning home to his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett) and children, Adam seems distant, but ultimately sound of mind. Saskia soon finds this isn’t at all the case, as her husband writes about committing suicide. It becomes clear that Adam is suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. Adam is especially haunted by what happened to a fellow solider named James. He’s unsure how to confront his widow, played by a surprisingly effective Amy Schumer, who asks Adam pointblank to describe how her husband died.
The film also centers on Tausolo Aieti (Beulah Koale) and Will Waller (Joe Cole), two fellow soldiers that return back to the States with Adam. Although Tausolo seems relaxed, it doesn’t take much to trigger memories of Iraq. Getting little help from the government he fought to protect, Tausolo also struggles to provide for his unborn child, causing him to fall back into a life of crime. Will is the joker of the group, but his wise cracks merely mask the pain inside. Upon discovering that his wife and child moved out while he was overseas, Will is finally pushed to do the unthinkable.
Between Adam, Tausolo, and Will, Hall probably could’ve made three movies about PTSD. As a result, Thank You for Your Service can feel overstuffed. While all the actors turn in extremely emotional work, the best parts of the film revolve around Adam and his family. Had the film solely focused on them, Thank You for Your Service could’ve dug a little deeper and pulled out something truly special. For what we do get, however, the film is well acted, well made, and does an authentic job at conveying the veteran mindset. You can tell Hall was 100% committed to doing this material justice and that commitment ultimately shines through.