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"THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE"
(2017) (Miles Teller, Haley Bennett) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: In 2007, three traumatized war buddies return from Iraq and must adjust to civilian life.
PLOT:
In 2007, three soldiers are returning from Iraqi and are looking forward to reconnect with the women who love them and get back into civilian life. Adam (MILES TELLER) is a sergeant who's reunited with his wife, Saskia (HALEY BENNETT), young daughter, and a baby son he's never met. Solo (BEULAH KOALE) is an Army specialist who is eager to start a family with his wife, Alea (KEISHA CASTLE-HUGHES). And Will (JOE COLE) just misses the hot intimacy he shared with his fiancée, Tracey (ERIN DARKE), and hopes to resume that immediately.

Upon returning, though, the three find assimilating back into society difficult. Adam's kids don't know him, his benefits won't kick in for several months, and he's been having suicidal thoughts ever since a mission went wrong under his command. Solo is clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has problems with his short-term memory, craves drugs to cope, and wants only to reenlist. Will, meanwhile, has returned to an empty house with his fiancée having left him.

From there, things get worse before they can get better. The men have to deal with a Department of Veteran Affairs that is overburdened and ill-prepared to handle the influx of Afghan and Iraqi war veterans in need of help. Solo gets roped into a local crime ring led by former vet-turned-gangster named Dante (OMAR J. DORSEY). And Adam weighs leaving his family to check himself into a treatment facility in California when a spot opens up.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
For a guy who likes to work in some humor into his reviews … folks, I got nothin' with regards to "Thank You for Your Service." Set in 2007, it's a good, solid flick about three soldiers returning home from the war in Iraq and trying to assimilate back into civilian life. But their experiences in the war zone have changed them too much, and they each have some serious problems once back in the States.

Fortunately, the movie doesn't have any serious problems. Oh, I have a few nitpicks. But nothing major. If you're looking for entertainment or a happy flick … uh … this ain't it. But if you want something with some substance, heft, and some really solid acting, this is worth seeing.

Miles Teller follows up a harrowing firefighter movie last week ("Only the Brave") with this harrowing war film. He plays Adam, a sergeant who made a bad call on one of his final missions that resulted in a man getting shot in the head by a sniper. He then compounded that bad call by agreeing to sit out the next mission. When that caravan returns to base, the officer who took his place comes back gravely wounded. It's a one-two gut punch that takes a while to land, because Adam has men to command and time left to serve. But back in the States, it eats at him until he finds himself in the front seat of his truck with a shotgun in his mouth.

Meanwhile, Army specialist Tausolo "Solo" Aieti (Beulah Koale) has also returned and is looking forward to starting a family with his young wife (Keisha Castle-Hughes). He sees the supportive wife that Adam has and his two beautiful kids and he wants that. But he soon feels the effects of PTSD and has problems with short-term memory. Solo feels enormously compelled to return to Iraq and rejoin his men. When that is impossible, he starts to crave hard drugs and even contemplates returning to a life of crime.

The third member is infantryman Will Waller (Joe Cole), who seems the most happy-go-lucky of the trio. But he returns home to nothing. His fiancée has moved out, left an empty apartment with no power, and even canceled their debit card. He sleeps at night with a gun by his head, and he needs to see her one more time to ask "Why?"

The film doesn't let its characters or the audience off easily for long stretches. But even with this grim material, I kept expecting the movie to push further into darker territory and it just didn't. There is a middle stretch that is highly unnerving and effective, with scenes like Solo imagining a fallen war buddy in a mall food court walking towards him screaming and Adam making love to his wife (Haley Bennett) and hallucinating that she gets her head blown off in the middle of intercourse.

Having seen similarly themed films like "The Deer Hunter" and "Born on the Fourth of July" and "The Best Years of Our Lives," this movie isn't in their league. With all due respect, honor, and love to our young veterans today, Iraq and Afghanistan still don't have the hold on our national psyche the way Vietnam did mainly because that war involved a draft. Uncle Sam was coming into schools and homes and saying, "Son … you're the one. And, uh, so are you and you and you and you!" Post 9/11, we live in an era of first-person shooter video games, major corporations controlling our music and art (would a Jim Morrison, a Janis Joplin, or a Bob Dylan even exist today?), and 24-hour news coverage backed by big money people who have a vested interested in keeping us at each other's throats on the home front with vague scandals and selective outrage.

"Thank You for Your Service" doesn't really take a stand on the war that maimed these men or the weirdly evolving society at home. It just tells you that they were maimed, and this is how they're trying to deal with it. Teller, Koale, Bennett, and Cole summon some of the rawest acting of their careers, and I was with their characters all the way. And even comedian Amy Schumer is effective in a small role as a new widow trying to find answers. While I can't assign adjectives like "great" and "exceptional" to this film, I can use words like "solid," "effective," and "emotional." Most viewers probably won't want to go any deeper. And that's OK, too. Baby steps, America. I give this a solid, effective, and emotional 6 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed October 24, 2017 / Posted October 27, 2017


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