'Thank You For Your Service': Veterans bring their battles home

Thank You for Your Service is directed by Jason Hall, who wrote the screenplay for American Sniper, and who in this movie provides an even more unsentimental look into the lives of returning troops. His movie is based on the nonfiction David Finkel book of the same name, which tells the stories of soldiers returning from Iraq, fighting  in Sadr City.

Those grisly experiences are glimpsed mainly in flashback — the movie starts in earnest when the men arrive back home.

At age 26, Adam Schumann (Miles Teller) has decided three tours is enough, and throws himself into being a father and husband to wife (Haley Bennett) with a soldier’s sense of duty.

Read more: Why movies are a lifeline for troops overseas

Part of that means concealing from his wife his growing inability to control his emotions, and his thoughts, which return to combat and guilt-inducing events intensified by the aftereffects of combat stress.

It’s a good, quiet performance by Teller, and also by Bennett — her Saskia is welcoming but wary. Her maternal instincts are telling her Adam has changed, and that those changes are relevant to her children’s well-being.

She pushes him for a candid assessment of his mental state, he resists, leading to the movie’s most cutting scene: Saskia finding his questionnaire from the VA. Do you have suicidal thoughts? How often? She wanted the truth, but getting it in no way improves her peace of mind.

Schumann confides in his buddy Solo (Beulah Koale), who wants to reenlist but is turned away — tests reveal that the aftereffects of combat have left him unfit to serve. The men don’t belong in the Army, they don’t belong at home — the moment finally arrives when they concede they both belong in treatment.

Thank You for Your Service chronicles their neo-Catch 22. They need help immediately, but help via the overwhelmed, underfunded VA is achingly slow in coming (scenes of well-meaning but hamstrung VA staffers are well done).

Hall (or perhaps the studio) chooses to end the movie here, though Finkel’s book went on to chronicle their (fraught but successful) treatment, which is probably a movie in its own right. Still, those experiences that gave the book a more comprehensive feel and satisfying conclusion. Hall adds some late-game genre elements that feel forced, but ends on a note of resolution — Schumann finally meeting with the wounded comrade (Scott Haze) he carried from the field, leading to a burden he couldn’t put down.

MOVIES

Thank You for Your Service

  • Directed by Jason Hall. With Miles Teller, Beulah Koale, Haley Bennett, Scott Haze and Amy Schumer. Distributed by Universal Pictures.
  • Parents guide: R (adult situations, violence).
  • Running time: 1 hour, 48 mins.
  • Playing at: Area theaters.

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