‘Thank You for Your Service’ depicts emotional trauma

Film details distress war veterans may face in civilian lives

MORGAN LESTER, Evergreen columnist

Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. “Interstellar” put it best: You can’t get anywhere without leaving something behind.

That explanation tells us why rockets need stages to move spacecraft, why pendulums and other mechanical devices lose some of their power over time, and why when people go to war, they do not come back the same.

Part of what makes me thankful for “Thank You for Your Service” is that it spares itself of the typical military action to give focus and meaning to what happens after the war, to the soldiers who fought it. Based on the nonfiction novel of the same name by David Finkel, this movie is not an action film by any stretch of the imagination. It deals heavily with the emotional trauma that these men are suffering as they go through their civilian lives.

The movie itself focuses mostly on three men: Staff Sergeant Adam Schumann, played by Miles Teller; Specialist Tausolo Aieti, otherwise known as Solo, played by Beulah Koale; and Billy Waller, played by Joe Cole. Each play their roles with an extraordinary power, working to show how these men are hurting, where they are coming from and where they are going.

While a large portion of the movie is focused on these three men, and their friends and families as they attempt to help, great attention is given to how the nation receives them now that they are back home. For example, Solo, an American Samoan residing in Kansas, finds himself beset by repeated instances of racism, even as a solider who risked life and limb for his nation.

Another heavy note is placed on our government’s response to our soldiers, and how the overwhelmed institutions meant to serve them are not giving them the help they need, forcing them to seek other options or go it alone. And with many of the men in this movie forced down that track, they end up worse for wear.

The movie, however, is not perfect. There are points that feel somewhat underwritten, like Adam’s strained family life with his wife Saskia, omitting some details that are harsher than others in the storytelling.

Another moment of note is Amy Schumer’s underwritten widow Amanda Doster, whose husband died when Adam couldn’t save him. Instead of providing a more well-rounded picture of Adam’s rehabilitation, she appears for a short time only, and simply tells him to live for her husband, which feels like more of a single note than it should.

Overall, however, “Thank You for Your Service” is a nonfiction drama that not only exposes the issues within the support systems and communities we have for our veterans, but also helps to understand what these men left behind, what they lost overseas. Consider it your civic duty to watch this movie — you’ll be better for having watched it.