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‘Thank You for Your Service’ reveals a harrowing veteran experience

Miles Teller, left, and Beulah Koale star in “Thank You for Your Service.”
Miles Teller, left, and Beulah Koale star in “Thank You for Your Service.”

“Thank You for Your Service” explores the devastation of PTSD suffered by American soldiers returning home in 2007, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Miles Teller stars as Sgt. Adam Schumann, who struggles to find his footing back home with his wife (Haley Bennett) and kids. He seems most at ease when looking out for his boys, like he did in Iraq, and is plagued by guilt over incidents at home and abroad when he was unable to save his buddies from injury or death.

The detailing of their physical and emotional injuries includes statistics about suicide and careful questionnaires about mental distress. But this is an account of PTSD and a wartime mystery. While these vets struggle to be treated for combat stress, traumatic brain injuries and suicidal thoughts, they also speak cryptically about “what happened to Doster,” one of their comrades who died, leaving behind a distraught widow (Amy Schumer).

While parts of “Thank You for Your Service” work well, the film is inconsistent. A middle section lays out a perfect villain that is disappointingly dropped: the government system that churns through boys and leaves them alone to navigate the bureaucratic nightmare that is Veterans Affairs, while admonishing them that it’s “bad for morale” to ask for help.

This biting social commentary is abandoned for a misguided subplot involving Solo (Beulah Koale), Adam’s buddy, getting caught up in a bad situation with a drug dealer, a Desert Storm vet. It’s disappointing that the film ultimately positions the real threat as a fellow vet, a man of color, rather than the war machine that chewed them up and spit them out.

The representations of the Army wives aren’t much better. They’re mostly shrill nags who can’t understand. Amy Schumer, making a turn toward dramatic fare, is woefully miscast. In a brown wig, it’s too hard to separate her from her comedic persona.

Teller is a compelling actor, and when the film focuses on Adam and his boys — their bonds forged in combat, sealed with blood – it’s sensitive and moving. No man is left behind, even back home. Teller is best across from Koale, who is riveting in his soulful performance as an American Samoan soldier. Despite its storytelling inconsistencies, the film reveals a harrowing veteran experience when it focuses on the men themselves.

Movie review

‘Thank You for Your Service’

Rated R for strong violent content, language throughout, some sexuality, drug material and brief nudity. 1:48. Fayette, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond.

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