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.

American Sniper

January 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner
Directed by: Clint Eastwood (“Gran Torino”)
Written by: Jason Hall (“Paranoia”)

After passing through the hands of David O. Russell and Steven Spielberg, the film based on the life of the deadliest sniper in American military history, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), landed in the lap of director Clint Eastwood. Though it may not turn out to be a classic war film, “American Sniper” is, at the very least, a return to form for a director in the twilight of his career.

“American Sniper” tells the story of Kyle’s four tours in Iraq. After leaving his newlywed wife Kaya (Sienna Miller) at home in the U.S., Kyle reaches Iraq with a deadly accurate shot and a strong desire to serve his country. Dubbed “Legend,” Kyle must fight to stay alive in an increasingly dangerous landscape with a target on his back, all while struggling with emotional issues stemming from his role as a SEAL.

After achieving three acting nominations in consecutive years, Cooper has become somewhat of a new Academy darling. Sporting a near perfect Texas accent, Cooper is good as Kyle, though his Oscar nomination feels ever so slightly miscalculated, especially considering who beat him out. Still, the film falls almost exclusively on the shoulders of Cooper, who handles the burden with a steady, albeit unflashy performance.

Though it isn’t exactly a conventional war film, “American Sniper” certainly dials up the tension and its more intense action sequences are taut and well executed. In a landscape that isn’t exactly full of modern war stories, this look into the warfare of Iraq is refreshing and well done. Unfortunately, the scope of the screenplay gets in the way of it being any more than a surface look at these conflicts. Most notably, screenwriter Jason Hall spends a large chunk of the film focused on an enemy and former Olympic sniper named Mustafa. By turning Mustafa into an invincible generic villain, Hall devotes far too much valuable screen time to what feels like an entirely arbitrary antagonist when there are far more interesting things at play.

The best moments of “American Sniper” come when symptoms of PTSD and the DNA of a military man who can’t help but return for multiple tours are explored and analyzed. Even further, Miller is quite strong as Kyle’s wife who becomes increasingly troubled having to raise a family on her own, watching her husband risk his life time after time. In the end, the screenplay, performances and direction excel when the family dynamics are strained, yet Eastwood treats these moments as a B storyline and whiffs on a chance to do something truly unique.

It may not rise to the levels of “Zero Dark Thirty” when it comes to modern warfare tension, but “American Sniper” is a worthwhile, if not unspectacular entry to the war movie genre. Cooper is the clear star, but Eastwood is able to coax enough tense moments out of a relatively mediocre script to make the film worth the time of anyone looking for a solid rush in the slow month of January.