Time Out says
Post–Whiplash, Miles Teller continues to push himself into uncomfortable places with this drama about soldiers returning from Iraq.
Hollywood has done surprisingly well on the subject of war veterans, from 1946’s heartbreaking The Best Years of Our Lives—long before post-traumatic stress disorder was a typical diagnosis—to more recent films like The Hurt Locker and American Sniper. Jason Hall, the screenwriter of that last movie, now makes a sincere, unshowy directorial debut with Thank You for Your Service, a mostly quiet drama that burrows deep under the psychological scars of a group of Iraq combat vets returned home with demons they can’t exorcise. Once a confident sergeant, Adam Schumann (Miles Teller, effortlessly natural) still scans the gutters of his Missouri suburb’s roads for plastic bags that might be hiding bombs; his former comrade in arms, Solo (Beulah Koale), has worse anxieties that make him desperate to blot out his memories by any means necessary.
The movie kicks off a little shapelessly, true to the drifting, detached nature of these men (and the nonfictional 2013 account by David Finkel on which Hall’s screenplay is based); then it snaps to attention too quickly in a third-act criminal subplot that feels tidy. But these anguished performances go a long way, as does the film’s peripheral vision of a banal, depressed America that threatens to forget its warriors. Strip malls gleam bleakly and government offices offer little in the way of help; potential jobs include mowing grass at a golf course in between popping Klonopins and playing video games. That overall setting of dingy homes and terrified wives (including a standout Haley Bennett) is what stays with you: After fighting for an ideal, these characters return home to a country that can barely rouse itself to care. In that sense, Thank You for Your Service is as necessary as top-flight journalism.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
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