Film Review: Thank You For Your Service

XO Rating

8 Plot
8 Acting
7 Cinematography
8 Experience

Director: Jason Hall

Writer: David Finkel

Cast: Miles Tiller, Haley Bennet, Beauloah Koale

After a long tour in Iraq, a group of brave soldiers finally come home.  Broken and battle-scarred they return to their loved ones changed men. With sanity hanging by a thread and depression lingering they enter the biggest battle yet, fighting for normalcy, survival, and peace of mind. While the fallen warriors are rewarded with accolades and reverence these survivors find themselves discarded and all but forgotten by the country they swore to protect. Like the scores of soldiers buried beneath “Old Glory” these veterans survive and come home only to find their lives have also been taken.

Director Jason Hall and Writer David Finkel bring the dramatic story of Adam Schumann’s life to the big screen with Thank You For Your Service. This poignant and telling film presents the reality of life after the war. Unlike many war films that glorify the heroics of battle, this film presents an often untapped realness that exposes the vulnerability of America’s veterans. The film begins with three soldiers arriving home from Iraq and quickly dwindles down to two as one finds himself unable to cope and abruptly takes his own life. His death becomes the catalyst that propels the film’s main protagonists; Adam Schumann and Tausolo “Solo” Aieti. Based on a true story the film digs into the life of small-town veterans painting a frustrating picture of the hardships faced by army families throughout the country.

Schumann is portrayed by Miles Tiller. Many will remember Miles from last year’s War Dogs. Tiller’s portrayal is of Schumann is dynamic and well rounded. Through Tiller the audience gets to see the many sides of Schumann, his fears frustrations and all of his vulnerability are laid bare. The movie follows Schumann’s day to day struggle trying to come to grips with his fractured mind and the guilt of surviving. Instead of an immediate explosion of rage the film sees Schumann slowly unraveling and eventually coming to an anticlimactic conclusion to seek help.  Though brimming with anger and sadness, these emotions rarely come to the surface. Schumann spends a great deal of time in denial and even in acceptance of his issues forgoes treatment for the sake of another. The film also shows the stigma of seeking help, through a chance encounter between Schumann and another officer. Seeing Schumann in line for benefits the officer pulls him aside and tells him he shouldn’t lower himself this way. Schumann responds with a hearty yes sir but is inwardly shaken and embarrassed. This one act is a common thread throughout his story as he keeps the bulk of his insecurities to himself and occasionally sharing his thoughts with Solo.

While Schumann may be the strong silent type “Solo” is anything but.  Having a hard time adjusting to civilian life, he is visibly unhinged.  His memory is fading fast and his mental incompetence prevents him from enlisting for another tour. Army life is all he knows and without it, he is lost. Unfortunately, his love for the armed services is unrequited and his efforts to survive are thwarted by the very institution that he believes saved his life once. One of the most frustrating scenes occurs when he is expected to prove his service to the army in order to apply for benefits. He encounters an older soldier who is all too happy to help but suddenly becomes reluctant once he discovers Solo is Samoan. Though the army had found him American enough to die for the cause, he was somehow not American enough to be cared for. The heartbreak in Solo is evident as he struggles for meaning. Adding to this frustration is the elder officer’s callous disregard for Solo’s suffering as he continues mindlessly surfing the net and barely acknowledging the tortured young man

Whether you are part of a military family or not this is a film every family can relate to. The frustrations and daily struggle lend themselves to a broad series of circumstances and the characters are instantly relatable.  With very little comic relief and even less violence Thank You For Your Service provides a dramatic telling of heartbreak, survivors guilt and the danger of suffering in silence.