Nutshell: Jason Hall tells a story about three men returning home from Iraq, and turns it into a rallying cry for better post-service care for our Military. Intense wartime scenes blend with heartbreaking realities after the characters come home, and an absolutely appalling lack of regard from our Government. Grade: A-
What is it: American Sniper‘s screenwriter Jason Hall (that’s right, Devon MacLeish from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) multi-hyphenates as screenwriter/director in this adaptation of David Finkel’s nonfiction book. I heard about this film when Shania Twain’s “Soldier” was made into a video teaser for this film. I figured it’d be a tearjerker, but with a solid undercurrent of pride of country. And this look at three men who tried to put themselves back together after their service in Iraq is an eye-opener for anyone who doesn’t know anyone in the military. Heck, it’s an eye-opener for folks like me who do know amazing men and women who have served.
How did I like it: Much like Only the Brave this movie can be tough to watch at times. What these individuals go through is incomprehensible to folks outside of it, and even those close to it. Forester crafts a screenplay that pulls no punches on either side; it shows mistakes made by servicemen in and out of combat, and it shows an overworked and dispassionate government that would rather write off a veteran for not having a proper piece of paper than giving him or her the care that individual desperately needs.
Miles Teller keeps churning out excellent performances, and with Service his portrayal of Adam Schumann is right up there with Whiplash. Miles portrays Adam as a man trying desperately to come to terms with what happened to him, all the while believing that “real” soldiers don’t need help. As Adam begins to understand what’s going on with him, his willingness to seek help – and find help for others – is touching. Beulah Koale plays Solo, Adam’s best friend and fellow combat vet, who has suffered brain trauma after multiple IED explosions. (Research now shows that even one IED blast can cause serious damage.) Koale’s performance is phenonmenal. Full stop. It’s not an easy character, and the arc Solo goes through is the real heart of the film. But Koale delivers. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a not come Oscar time. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Amy Schumer as a serviceman’s widow. She’s not onscreen much, but she gives beautiful wide-eyed hurt. I couldn’t stop thinking AMYSCHUMERAMYSCHUMEROMGTHAT’SAMYSCHUMER, but that’s on me.
I know there’ll be a lot of haters piping up, just like they did with American Sniper. “This movie hates America!!!11!” “This is obviously a veiled attack on Our Beloved Trump! #MAGA” Blah blah blah y’all. No, this film isn’t attacking our government. It’s showing exactly what happens when a soldier comes home and requires service. If haters are feeling bad because the VA is shown in a bad light, then it’s the government that’s to blame. Well no. It’s actually our fault. All of us. Because we’re not demanding that our soldiers get what they need. What they deserve. They fought for us, we should be fighting for them. Thank You For Your Service is just a reminder. Take it to heart.
Why should you see it: Because it’s an amazingly well acted film with fantastic performances. And it’ll show you a view of military life that most of us have never experienced. CAVEAT: there is a scene where one of the characters goes to a dog fight. And you see peeks between the posts as the dogs go at it, and you see one after she loses a fight. I know it’s staged, I know it’s all fakety-fake-fakeness…but if you’ve got a soft heart for the fuzzies, be forewarned. (Spoiler: there’s a happy ending for one pup. Sorry, but I had to spill that.)