Film Review Thank You for Your Service

Beulah Koale, left, Joe Cole and Miles Teller star in"Thank You for Your Service," a drama following a group of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq who struggle to integrate back into family and civilian life. 

DreamWorks Pictures

This is one of the most grim films of the year. It wants to shock, to provoke and inform … and that it does.

It’s so compelling that it might be a trigger for some people with post-traumatic stress disorder — I don’t say this lightly, so please take this into consideration before you watch “Thank You for Your Service.”

Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter David Finkel, who was alongside soldiers in Baghdad, wrote a book by the same name in 2013. It chronicles the war-fighters’ difficulties in adjusting to civilian life when they return to the United States, and that’s what unfolds here, with characters based on real people and their experiences.

Jason Hall, who wrote and performed in “American Sniper,” deftly wrote and directed this screenplay. Somehow, he manages to keep it from being a political op-ed piece; rather, he follows several soldiers in their quests for normal lives.

The amazing Miles Teller, also starring on a neighboring screen in “Only the Brave,” is Adam Schumann, a former sergeant who sometimes sees what isn’t really there. The tension begins to build as soon as he comes home, with his worried wife doing everything she can to get him to open up to her about what happened.

Adam served with Solo (Beulah Koale) and Will (Joe Cole). We see them in flashbacks during combat, and they’re closer than ever now that they’re home — after all, they understand what the others have experienced … and much of what they’re experiencing from the effects of warfare.

Will can’t stop looking for IEDs when he drives down a street. Solo’s pregnant wife Alea (Keisha Castle-Hughes, “Whale Rider”) begins to fear him. And Will returns home to an empty house — his fiancée has abandoned him.

Even when the men decide to seek help, they must navigate an overburdened system that simply doesn’t have room for all who need to use it.

It’s all the more heartbreaking when you see the quandaries the young men face. And when you take it by hundreds, then thousands, of veterans (from more than one war), you may realize just how many families and friends know someone in similar, and possibly worse, situations.

Each character is beautifully portrayed, right down to an almost-unrecognizable turn by Amy Schumer in a small but pivotal role as a grieving Gold Star widow.

I cannot imagine you won’t be moved by what unfolds here — indeed, what is unfolding all around you.

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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Broadcast Film Critics Association member. College instructor for criminal justice, English and math. Serves on Safer Foundation and The Salvation Army advisory boards. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church