“Thank You For Your Service” honors the troops and war they fight at home

Films about modern warfare tend to face an uphill battle. Current conflicts are hardly box office gold, so to find an audience, you need to have a very specific appeal. In the case of Thank You For Your Service, filmmaker Jason Hall finds an entry point with the mental battle being fought by the troops. Opening tomorrow (or tonight, depending on when you read this), the film will tug at your heart, potentially bring you to tears, and leave you invested in the plight of our wounded warriors. It’s one of the better films of 2017 so far and deserves to find a wide audience. Having seen it twice already, it will challenge you in all the right ways.

This movie is an adaptation of the David Finkel book of the same name. Focusing mainly on a pair of soldiers as they return home from Iraq and adjust to civilian life, we see them deal with the damage war has brought to them. There’s Adam Schumann (Miles Teller), a young leader who seems to be returning home to an ideal life with two young children and a beautiful wife in Saskia (Haley Bennett). On the inside, however, he’s haunted by the choices he’s made and the men he’s lost. There’s also Solo (Beulah Koale) who credits the Army with saving his life but is facing an impossible return to service due to trauma suffered. As both men seek help and encounter roadblocks along the way, we see other members of their unit and how the struggle is all to real for them as well. Hall directs and adapts Finkel’s book, with supporting players including Brad Beyer, Kerry Cahill, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Joe Cole, Erin Darke, Omar J. Dorsey, Scott Haze, David Morse, Amy Schumer, Kate Lyn Sheil, and more. Contributing the cinematography is the underrated Roman Vasyanov, while the score comes to us from the great Thomas Newman.

The film works because of the performances and Hall’s handling of the material. This is one of Teller’s very best performances yet, while Koale nearly steals the show with his emotional supporting turn. You may come for Teller, and again, he’s great, but when you walk out, there’s a good chance you’ll be talking about Koale. The talented young man should be going places. Credit also to Hall for giving the work both a hard edge and also deep emotional resonance. There is a clear evolution to Hall’s writing, so if American Sniper suggested his deft skill, Thank You For Your Service makes it clear. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

For those wondering, here is an updated look at Teller’s best performances to date:

10. War Dogs
9. That Awkward Moment
8. Get a Job
7. 21 and Over
6. Two Night Stand
5. Bleed for This
4. Rabbit Hole
3. Thank You For Your Service
2. The Spectacular Now
1. Whiplash

Honorable Mention: Footloose and Project X

Oscar can be fickle with flicks of this nature, but Thank You For Your Service could be a steal contender. A targeted campaign in Best Actor (for Teller), Best Supporting Actor (for Koale), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Hall), and Best Original Song (if it’s declared eligible) would be the smart play. There’s nothing wrong with a push in Best Picture, Best Director (for Hall), Best Supporting Actress (for Bennett), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score as well, but they’re longer shots. Actor, Supporting Actor, and Adapted Screenplay are viable categories with wide open slots. Whether these players can take those spots remains to be seen, but it’s well worth putting forward the effort.

Starting in the next few hours, audiences should make it their business to see Thank You For Your Service. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, there’s something to grab on to hear and drive your emotions. Credit again to everyone, from Hall to Koale and Teller. This deserves to be an American Sniper sized hit, in terms of the box office. How it fares remains to be seen, but the quality is undoubtedly there. It toes a hard line in being both incredibly respectful and also unforgiving. Give it a shot and see what you think. You can thank me later, once you experience it for yourselves…

Be sure to check out Thank You For Your Service, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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