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Review: Thank You for Your Service

If you’re feeling inspired to see a movie similar to American Sniper as Veterans Day approaches, then Thank You for Your Service definitely fits the bill. It represents a worthy and well-acted attempt to highlight the struggles that many veterans face when returning from the battlefield and integrating back into family and civilian life –while dealing with PTSD. It’s a relatively quiet film about the horrors of wars, except for a few intense and bloody flashbacks that are used to frame the mindset of a couple of U.S. soldiers returning to their Midwest homes after a brutal tour in Iraq in 2007. Thank You for Your Service is based on the nonfiction book of the same name by David Finkel. His recent article in the Washington Post spurred my interest in seeing the movie, as did the fact that it stars Miles Teller (Only the Brave, Whiplash).

Teller delivers an impressive show of internal strength and vulnerability as Adam Schumann, an Army sergeant wracked with guilt over a pair of incidents in Iraq: one in which he dropped a severely-injured soldier by mistake after choking on blood pouring from a gaping head wound; and another involving the death of a commanding officer whose wife (played by a virtually unrecognizable Amy Schumer in a straight dramatic role) is desperate to know the circumstances of her husband’s death.

While Schumann is reluctant to share what haunts him with his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett), he does seek help from the VA for himself and a shell-shocked war buddy Tausolo “Solo” Aiete (Beulah Koale, Hawaii Five-O) who is suffering from trauma and memory loss. The bureaucracy they encounter trying to get benefits and counseling is heartbreaking and maddening. If you think the wait-time at the DMV is bad, this will really set your blood boiling.

Thank Your for Your Service is honest and raw, depressing and hopeful. Thankfully, it’s a tightly-woven tale that clocks in at 108 minutes. It was written and directed by Jason Hall, who wrote Clint Eastwood’s 2015 war drama American Sniper, so it has a similar vibe.

If the subject matter feels too heavy, hold tight. There’s another movie opening on November 3 that would make for great Veterans Day viewing — Last Flag Flying starring Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne. It’s a dramedy that may not be as authentic as Thank You for Your Service, but is still very poignant – and quite funny. I caught Last Flag Flying at the 2017 Middleburg Film Festival and it was a definite crowd-pleaser. Both films provide ample opportunity to pause and think about veterans, their service and their sacrifice.

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