Thank You for Your Service, B-
Rated R, 108 minutes
The familiar biographical war drama "Thank You for Your Service" tells the true stories of several Army soldiers struggling to readjust to life after returning from combat in Iraq. The drama pulls few surprises and struggles with a sluggish middle act, but there are enough compelling moments and good performances to hold it together.
Sgt. Adam Schumann (Miles Teller) tries to readjust to civilian life after returning home from the war in Iraq. Fellow soldier Tausolo Aeiti (Beulah Koale) must deal with the aftermath of a bombing that left him with a traumatic brain injury. Will Waller (Joe Cole) searches for normalcy after surviving several explosions, while Michael Emory (Scott Haze) must deal with the effects of a sniper's bullet to the head. With memories of the battlefield still lingering, the soldiers soon begin their long journey to physical and emotional rehabilitation.
"Thank You for Your Service" is directed and written by Oscar-nominated "American Sniper" writer Jason Hall in his feature film debut and features several strong performances, including Teller and newcomer Koale, that rise above some of the generic storytelling. The film, based loosely on the David Finkel 2013 non-fiction novel of the same name, which chronicles the lives of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Baghdad in 2007-2008 and their return home.
Hall's film is a compelling, somewhat surface exploration of the lives of Middle American (Kansas) soldiers as they struggle with PTSD and many other issues after their return home. A handful of the film's more memorable scenes deal with the challenges they faced with the VA, which is telling of the lack of care many soldiers must deal with. The film also mentions another facility located in California that provides care to soldiers, and it's unfortunate the film doesn't explore that more, since both the real Schumann and Aiete underweent tremendous care and recovery there.
Koale is especially touching as the American Samoan soldier dealing with a myriad of memory issues, though part of his narrative, dealing with some gang members, is an unnecessary subplot that seems added for cinematic effect. Teller has a few compelling moments as Schumann, who must reconcile what happened with a couple of his fellow soliders, including Emory (a charming Haze) and Doster ("Jericho's" Brad Beyer), not to mention Doster's wife, played by comedian Amy Schumer in a serious role.
"Thank You for Your Service" gives you an idea of the struggles returning soldiers face when they get home stateside, though it's unfortunate we'll never fully understand the extent of those struggles. Downbeat but poignant, the film could've done more, but does enough to show that we are indeed thankful for their service.