By Kam Williams
In the spring of 2007, Washington Post reporter David Finkel accompanied a combat team of American infantrymen who were deployed to Baghdad at the start of the surge that was ordered by President Bush. After being embedded with the team for a year, the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter wrote about the G.I.s’ efforts to bring stability to the region in a riveting bestseller titled The Good Soldiers.
In 2013, Finkel published a follow up book, Thank You for Your Service, that updated the team’s struggle to readjust to civilian life after returning home from Iraq. The book has now been made into a film and is a psychological drama that is tightly focused on the mental state of a few members of the team’s battalion.
The movie is the directorial debut of Jason Hall, who previously wrote and appeared in American Sniper (2014). The picture stars Miles Teller as Adam Schumann, the team’s sergeant who suffers from PTSD.
As the film unfolds, we learn that Adam has remained close with the surviving members of the tight-knit unit that was under his command. Unfortunately, all of them have some form of damage, mentally and/or physically. Consequently, all of their relationships at home are in crisis, and none of them has managed to hold down a steady job since their return.
Adam’s wife (Haley Bennett) starts pressuring him to get help because he inexplicably dropped their newborn baby and he’s constantly looking for IEDs whenever they drive down the street. Unfortunately, there’s a nine-month waiting list to see a psychiatrist at the VA hospital and he’s also being discouraged from seeking treatment by a callous colonel (Jake Weber) who tells Adam that all he needs to do is toughen up.
Other members of the group are Solo (Beulah Koale), a Samoan with amnesia whose pregnant wife (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is thinking of leaving him. Another buddy, Will (Joe Cole), was dumped by his fiancée (Erin Darke) even before he returned home.
Things get worse before they get better. But this loyal band of brothers can count on each other, if not the VA or their loved ones for support. The movie is a heartbreaking tale that’s difficult to watch because its based on the hard, cold truth and is a sobering account of our wounded warriors’ tragic misfortunes.
Excellent (***½). Rated R for sexuality, drug use, graphic violence, brief nudity, and pervasive profanity. In English and Samoan with subtitles. Running time: 108 minutes. Distributor: Universal Pictures.