George Carlin once delivered an intense monologue on the dehumanizing power of euphemisms, using as his case study how the terse World War I phrase “shell shock” morphed to “battle fatigue,” “operational exhaustion” and the clinical-sounding term we use now, “post-traumatic stress disorder.”
It’s PTSD, and the way we and the government that’s supposed to represent us are derelict in how we treat our combat veterans, that fuels the emotion of “Thank You for Your Service,” a powerful, cathartic drama based on the real stories of Iraq War soldiers returning home.
Adapting David Finkel’s best-selling book, screenwriter and first-time director Jason Hall focuses on four soldiers who fought in the same battalion in Baghdad. One, Michael Emory (Scott Haze), survives a bullet to his head and is sent home early. The other three — Will Waller (Joe Cole), Tausolo Aieti (Beulah Koale) and their sergeant, Adam Schumann (Miles Teller) — come home together, but all are feeling the effects of their tour.
Schumann’s reunion with his wife, Saskia (Haley Bennett), and their kids is interrupted by Amanda Doster (Amy Schumer), desperate for information about how her husband, Sgt. James Doster (Brad Beyer), was killed in action. Schumann also deals with the fact that Saskia was forced by finances to rent out their home, and the family must live in smaller digs.
Aieti is greeted by his pregnant wife, Alea (Keisha Castle-Hughes), but he struggles with quieting the violence of his nightmares. Meanwhile, Waller finds his fiancée and daughter have left him — and he responds by blowing his brains out in front of his ex.
Hall (who adapted Chris Kyle’s memoir “American Sniper”) gets very up close and personal with Schumann and Aieti from this point on, as they fight Veterans Affairs bureaucracy and their own dark thoughts. Meanwhile, he also focuses tightly on the women, dealing with their own pain while trying to comfort their troubled men. (Schumer has only a minute of screen time, but makes it count in her gutsy turn as a grieving war widow.)
The movie is blessed with a fine ensemble cast, with strong performances by relative unknowns such as Haze and Koale. Teller and Bennett anchor the film, showing the strains warfare has on his sanity and the couple’s marriage.
“Thank You for Your Service” is a potent, timely reminder that PTSD isn’t just an abbreviation. The movie gives viewers a glimpse of the shell shock many servicemembers face and a reminder of our obligation to help them.
* * * 1/2
Thank You for Your Service
A powerful, timely drama follows the lives of combat soldiers returning home but still fighting an internal war.
Where • Area theaters.
When • Opens Friday, Oct. 27.
Rated • R for strong violent content, language throughout, some sexuality, drug material and brief nudity.
Running time • 108 minutes.
Free tickets for servicemembers and veterans
Military members and veterans will get an opportunity to see the drama “Thank You for Your Service” for free, for one night only.
Universal Pictures and AMC Theatres have arranged to give out 10,000 free tickets to screenings nationwide on Thursday, Oct. 26.
Each location will give 25 tickets, on a first-come first-served basis, to veterans and active-duty servicemembers who present valid government-issued ID at the box office for Thursday’s 7 p.m. showing. Tickets will be available starting at 9 a.m. Thursday.
The two Utah AMC locations participating are the AMC West Jordan 12 and the AMC Classic Provo 12. Go to the movie’s website for more information.