Thank You For Your Service

October 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Miles Teller, Beulah Koale, Haley Bennett
Directed by: Jason Hall (debut)
Written by: Jason Hall (“American Sniper”)

While war movies have been a part of the cinematic landscape for the last century, there are far fewer examples of post-war films that explore the harrowing issues of life after military service.
Post-Vietnam films like Oliver Stone’s critically-acclaimed 1989 classic “Born On the Fourth of July” and Emilio Esteves’ lesser-known 1996 drama “The War at Home” made an impact in their respective ways at the time, but civilian life after wartime has never really been looked at during more recent conflicts on foreign soil, specifically soldiers suffering from a mental diagnosis like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Jason Hall (“American Sniper”) makes his directorial debut with “Thank You for Your Service,” one of the first feature films in recent memory to confront the trauma of PTSD. Hall, who touched on the issue in 2014’s “American Sniper” with the story of late Navy S.E.A.L. sniper Chris Kyle, expands on the topic with heart, compassion and sensitivity, but also refuses to take it head on with kid gloves. It’s an effective portrayal of men fighting even in their weakest state, and each performance brims with authenticity and emotion.

In the film, which is based on a true story, Miles Teller (“Whiplash”) plays Adam Schumann, one of three U.S. soldiers the film follows as they return home after serving their country in Iraq. Finding it difficult to integrate back into civilian life, Adam, along with fellow soldiers Solo (Beulah Koale) and Billy (Joe Cole), try to put the horrors of war behind them and forget what they saw on the battlefield. Faced with their own personal demons, each man is forced to come to terms with their depression, all while doing the best they can to maneuver through a broken health care system that doesn’t seem to be working in their best interest.

“TYFYS” is a tough film to witness and process, specifically if you are one of the estimated 460,000 U.S. veterans currently with PTSD or a friend or family member of a vet who has seen first-hand how debilitating the disorder can become if not treated. Still, “TYFYS” is essential and inspirational cinema. It cuts to the core of the crisis and should be a wake-up call for anyone in a position of power who can make decisions on the post-war lives of these men and women.

Hall has presented a problem and almost seems to be challenging those in power to come up with a solution. We’ll have to see if “TYFYS” can actually create some kind of meaningful change. As a far as making a case for itself on a cinematic level, however, it makes a lasting impression.

The Girl on the Train

October 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett
Directed by: Tate Taylor (“The Help,” “Get on Up”)
Written by: Erin Cressida Wilson (“Men, Women & Children”)

High-class trashiness in entertainment is underrated. Who doesn’t enjoy some preposterous airplane novel about a conspiracy to quash knowledge of Jesus’ wife and children? Or a well-made TV show about the O.J. Simpson trial featuring respected actors dolled up in ‘90s Court TV cosplay?

Based on the novel by Paula Hawkins you saw everyone at Starbucks reading, the film version of “The Girl on the Train” follows closely in the footsteps of that other twisty-turny-trashy novel-turned-movie “Gone Girl,” piling on the double crosses and diversions, only without ever elevating the trashiness to an enjoyable level or executing a satisfying twist.

Boozy, bedraggled Rachel (Emily Blunt) goes about her life in an alcoholic haze, riding the train into Manhattan every day. She fixates on the people who live (pretty unfortunately) near the track, namely a young blonde woman named Megan (Haley Bennett) upon whom Rachel projects her dream of a perfect life. She has a sexy husband (Luke Evans) and a beautiful home (if you don’t factor in the proximity to a commuter rail line). But, as we learn through shifts in storytellers, she is hardly happy. Megan is enamored with her therapist (Edgar Ramirez) and hates children and her job as a nanny working for Anna (Rebecca Ferguson)—who lives two doors down from Megan, is married to Rachel’s ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and is fed up with Rachel’s stalker-like behavior. When Rachel spies Megan canoodling with another man on the balcony as the train passes by, she makes a booze-fueled fateful decision to get off the train and confront Megan for ruining her own life, only to wake up hours later to find she’s a suspect in Megan’s disappearance.

Where “The Girl on the Train” falters in comparison to something like David Fincher’s spiritually-similar “Gone Girl” is the absence of an appealing character when all of the dust settles. Bennett’s Megan is a petulant, dissatisfied adulterer. Ferguson’s Anna is a cold, shrill yuppie wife. And Rachel is a raging, destructive alcoholic—unless she wasn’t always, as the script weakly and ineffectively bails her out in the third act. The twist ending, if you can call it that, is easy to spot from a mile away and isn’t scandalous enough or, frankly, outrageously batshit crazy enough to elevate the material to the sublime nastiness a film like this demands.