Thank You For Your Service: Teller Delivers Powerhouse Performance in Emotional Drama
Haley BennettKeisha Castle-Hughes...
In 1 Cinema
Revisiting a topic that was last addressed by Hollywood in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, the directorial debut of Jason Hall – who also wrote the Bradley Cooper-starring 2014 film – explores the effects of PTSD (Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder) in soldiers returning home from a battlefield. Adapted from Pulitzer Prize winner David Finkel’s 2013 non-fiction book of the same name, Thank You for Your Service is an earnest and a solid – if perhaps a little familiar – war-drama which, despite a few storytelling hiccups, still manages to deliver its story with punch.
The year is 2007 and U.S Sergeant Adam Schuman (Teller once again delivering a powerful performance) is returning home from his third and final tour of Iraq. He is joined by two of his war-brothers, Tausolo ‘Solo’ Aieti (Koale) and Will Waller (Cole), who are all eager to move on to the next stage of their lives. However, adapting to normality is not as easy as they initially thought, with all three slowly beginning to show serious signs of depression and PTSD.
Getting very little financial or emotional support from the military – who they feel should aid veterans’ transition into their new lives – tragedy soon strikes and Adam, whose relationship with wife Saskia (Bennet) is also beginning to show signs of strain, is soon sent into an emotional downward spiral. Haunted by harrowing flashbacks and immense suicidal thoughts, Adam struggles to come to grips with reality, while Solo, who is suffering from a head injury, is equally distraught, soon finding himself lost and roped up into a local crime ring, led by another former veteran, Dante (Dorsey).
Standing as more of a character-driven story instead of a straight up war drama, themes such as desperation, guilt, anguish and fear sit deep throughout the film, with writer-director Hall spending most of the time inside the heads of the soldiers, following them throughout their inner emotional turmoil as they try to acclimatise to their new settings. The approach chosen is slow and methodical and apart from a few needlessly melodramatic plot turns – mainly involving Solo’s involvement with the crime gang – the story remains focused on the frustrations they face on a daily basis, whether at home with their wives and children or during the long waits in line at the Department of Veteran Affairs; a place which seems to be either not interested or unable to provide them with what they need.
Following his equally compelling turn in Only the Brave, Teller is once again a force to be reckoned with. Delivering a wonderfully restrained but equally commanding performance of a man struggling to find the strength to cope, Teller is the true star of the picture, while the chemistry shared with Koale, whose bond serves as the heart of the story, is equally touching.
On the whole, Thank You for Your Service is not an easy watch. Emotional but not always in tune with itself, it’s not a perfect film. However, despite some of its shortcomings, it still manages to paint a harrowing picture.