Thank You for Your Service

Fans of 2014’s highly acclaimed “American Sniper” military drama will find common themes embedded in this latest war film depicting U.S. service members returning home after battle in Iraq. Never once taking the easy route to describe the struggles suffered by tens of thousands of combat veterans and their families, “Thank You for Your Service” honors the unimaginable sacrifices of so many, for so long.

Based on the non-fiction book by American journalist and Pulitzer Prize winning author David Finkel, this movie follows three U.S. Army soldiers’ reintegration to family life back in 2007. It meticulously and realistically addresses their post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and the personal challenges each faces in trying to get back to a sense of normalcy around loved ones. 

Making his directorial debut, Jason Hall gives us a heartbreaking, and, at times, shocking view into the soldiers’ journey to get medical help. Hall, who wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for “American Sniper,” perfectly captures the changed family dynamics and unsettling tension found between married couples after nearly a year of deployment separation.  

As one who deployed 16 times in support of 12 military operations over a 24-year Air Force career, I can tell you that this film gets military family life spot-on. One scene in this film still stands out in my mind as the ground truth of U.S. combat operations now going on its seventeenth consecutive year: One of the recently returned soldiers must get his supervisor to sign-off on paperwork verifying his exposure to an attack in Iraq so he can receive his justified service-related medical treatment. The young officer in-charge, probably with nary a combat tour under his belt, is more enamored with purchasing steak online than hearing from one of the troops that served down range outside the barbed wire. 

Miles Teller and Haley Bennett lead a stellar cast, both of whom absolutely nail their parts as Sergeant Adam Schumann and his wife, Saskia. Teller, who along with Jake Gyllenhaal (“Stronger”) are the two most underrated Hollywood actors right now, epitomizes the selfless leadership found in today’s non-commissioned officer corps. Keep Teller on your Best Actor list for 2017. Yes, he’s that good in this movie. Bennett also does a masterful job at pulling information slowly from her hurting husband and getting him to ask for help.

The 99 percent of Americans who don’t wear a military uniform should see this film. As we continue to settle into the longest war in our nation’s history, it’s important to note the stress in our fighting force and their families. With 22 veterans committing suicide each day and many others suffering in silence after multiple combat deployments, the status quo isn’t sustainable forever. 

To all the men and women on our front lines today, thank you—and your families—for your sacrifices.

Grade: A-

Patrick King is a resident of Tucson and writer for the REEL BRIEF movie blog at www.reelbrief.com. You may email him at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com

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