You don’t want to die? It was multiple choice and you said you wanted to die. Was that a lie? Adam?
I don’t know.
In Thank You For Your Service, director Jason Hall follows his characters, hardened military men, into the hottest, deadliest battlefield they’ll ever enter, the hellish world of their own minds. There are brief sequences here of fighting in the Middle East, but the bulk of this movie is taken up with what happens to American soldiers when they return and are, essentially, abandoned to deal with their mental, emotional, physical & financial needs on their own. The movie mostly focuses on two soldiers, played by Miles Teller & Beulah Koale, as they try to reintegrate into normal society while dealing with intense cases of PTSD. The cast is very good and it’s led by a really, really fine performance by Miles Teller, not that this is any surprise. Koale is somewhat less effective, but Teller is just an actor on a different level from most. Haley Bennett is very good as Teller’s wife and Scott Haze, a character actor I love more every time I see him, is absolutely brilliant in a brief role as an injured soldier who’s finally come to some level of peace with his situation. The title, taken from the original book, is a strange one for a movie, but I think the movie ultimately makes a really powerful indictment, which is that when our soldiers come home from putting their lives on the line and enduring terrible circumstances, what America essentially offers them is a handshake, a hearty “Thank you for your service,” and . . . well, that’s about it actually. “Thank you for your service” is the most we give our veterans and this simply shouldn’t be the case. The movie, more than any other target, really indicts the military for the way it treats its troubled soldiers. There are some infuriating scenes of the main characters trying to get treatment from an uncaring bureaucracy. This lack of compassion runs down to the individual when it comes to leadership. A scene where a ranking officer tries to talk the Teller character out of seeing a therapist because it will show weakness is brutal and a scene where Koale attempts to explain his suicidal compulsions to a distracted officer who won’t even stop online shopping long enough to listen is absolutely rage inducing. The movie isn’t perfect; it feels a bit sanitized at times, like it’s afraid to go quite as harrowing as some movies might, though it is still disturbing. And the ending is a disappointment; after a lot of time spent with people suffering, it feels very tidy the way that the movie just decides to wrap everything up for a nice happy ending in the very last scene. Still, it’s a compelling movie and one that gets at a serious cultural problem in a way that’s both compassionate to those that are suffering and sincere in its care for them. 3 stars.
tl;dr – sincere, compassionate movie explores PTSD & the lack of support offered to returning soldiers and offers some great performances; falls short of greatness, but an admirable film. 3 stars.