First Hit: Powerful and, at times, very realistic about the struggles vets have getting support from the VA.
Adam Schuman (Miles Teller) is back from serving in Iraq as the person who leads a group finding IEDs. He’s good at it because he senses where they are. After serving 15 months in Iraq, he comes home to Kansas to his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett), his daughter whom he knows and his son who was born while he was away.
The audience sees how he buries his angst towards what he’s been through and, in particular, certain events that he feels guilty about. Specifically, he’s pained over the loss of Sergeant First Class James Doster (Brad Beyer) who took his place in a Humvee outing that got him killed. It is especially painful because Saskia’s best friend is Amanda Doster (Amy Schumer) James’ wife.
He's also in pain because one of his men gets shot in the head and he tries to carry him downstairs to save him and drops him possibly causing more injury.
Adam is especially close with two others who served with him Specialist Tausolo Aieti (Beulah Koale) and Billy Waller (Joe Cole). Tausolo (aka - Solo) has a severe case of PTSD, and although he just wants to go back to Iraq where he feels comfortable, the Army medical team and his wife do not want him to go back. His memory is shot, he’s jumpy and he hallucinates. So what is he to do now?
Billy returns to find his apartment bare because fiancé has left him and didn’t tell him. He’s shocked and filled with sadness and dismay and commits suicide in-front of her at her place of employment as a bank teller.
This sets up the story about how our country takes care of our wounded. The physical wounds are one thing, but the inner wounds of PTSD are killing people everywhere all the time and the US Government doesn’t do enough to help them.
The lines of chairs filled with people holding a number to get served at the VA is shocking. Having tried to get VA service attention for my own Vietnam disabilities was horrible, yet here we see how much worse it has gotten. Vets stand in long lines, only to be told they don’t have the right form, or the right line to help them through the process.
The look of disbelief on Solo’s face when they tell him they have no record of the explosive incident of which he had to pull a burning Doster out of a blown-up Humvee, tells it all. Shock and sadness. What is worse is that they make him find someone to document the event.
The war scenes felt real and were well filmed. There wasn’t a lot of them, but enough to make the point solidly. The VA scenes were strong, yet I do feel that they could have been even more pointed. The guilt Adam wore for the responsibility to his men was embodied perfectly.
Teller was sublime. He’s become one of my favorite must see actors and if you want to see him in three great roles see; Whiplash, Only the Brave and this one Thank You for Your Service. Bennett was excellent as Adam’s wife who does everything she can to help Adam feel safe, have a place to open up while being supportive. Great job. Schumer was very good in her role as grieving wife while having the ability to not blame Adam for her husband’s death. Koale was amazing. He was excellent as the soldier that had felt the Army saved him from a unproductive life but was now abandoning him with his severe case of PTSD. Cole was very strong as the young man filled with bravado who couldn’t wait to see his fiancé again, only to have her not show up. Keisha Castle-Hughes was very good as Solo’s wife who tried to help and support her struggling husband. Jason Hall wrote and directed this film. He definitely had a good feel as to what he wanted to show. I wish more of the VA’s shortcomings were on display so that maybe we could do something about how we take young men and women, send them off to war, and discard them after all is said and done.
Overall: This is a strong film that I liked.