Thank You for Your Service Movie Review
War causes trauma, apparently. Thank You For Your Service shows what happens when Miles Teller goes to war, drops a dude on his head and then attempts to obtain a therapist while subsequently attempting to sleep with his gorgeous wife. The result is more fireworks than full-out explosions, however; Teller and Beulah Koale give strong performances, but the Jason Hall drama comes off too heavy handed for its own good.
For a debut directorial piece, Thank You For Your Service has a lot going for it.
Miles Teller is one of Hollywood’s up-and-coming actors (though I’m not convinced audiences are buying into him as much as critics are) and delivers another emotional performance. He, along with a supporting cast of damaged men—and Haley Bennett (The Girl on the Train)—have terrific chemistry and do a good job of establishing true comradery. Koale is especially good as an ex-soldier at the end of his fuse, a man so desperate he will do just about anything to escape his seemingly inescapable situation.
The story is powerful, if only for its depiction of the way war veterans are treated once they return home. Hall does a fine job of walking through the frustrations his characters face as they attempt to navigate the underfunded bureaucracies and backlogs of the Veteran Affairs office.
And Hall, who also wrote the screenplay from a book written by David Finkel (Teller’s character), does an excellent job of visualizing the horrors many soldiers face once they return to civilian life, the psychological pain that haunts many men who come back from war.
Despite all the film’s strengths, however, Thank You For Your Service never sucks you in the way it should. This is a story that screams for nuance, and yet nuance is not something Hall has apparently mastered as of yet. The way the characters talk to each other about their trauma and psychological problems is too on-the-nose at times, almost unbelievable. Some plot developments—especially ones involving Koale’s character—are heavy-handed and seem out of place in contrast to the rest of the movie. The movie isn’t poorly written, but Hall could have let his actors do more with less dialogue.
Thank You For Your Service is a perfectly fine drama, and a good project film for Jason Hall, but the movie doesn’t completely accomplish its mission.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.