Thank You for Your Service

by Justin Johnson

Most people know what to expect going into Thank You For Your Service but that does little to prepare you for blunt force trauma you are about to experience for the next two hours.  For those ten of you thinking about seeing the movie and don’t really know what to expect, here are some light spoilers to prepare you.  The movie features very little war, its primarily focused on adjusting back to civilian life post war.  Imagine killing bad guys, watching your friends die, and the next day meeting up with your wife and kids you have not seen for 9 months… and that’s the tame story compared to others portrayed in this fine film.

I’d hate to think this movie portrays the typical story, I certainly have no personal connections with anyone who has described such hell.  So perhaps I have been naïve to the realities soldiers face when they return.  Realities that would make the average man cringe and cry.  Which is why this movie is very uncomfortable, it begs your response, your action in return for what you witness.  Miles Teller is clearly gunning for some big recognition this fall with Only the Brave playing along side Thank You For Your Service.  He and others bring to life such a gritty reality (and from the amount of grown men crying during the screening, they obviously brought forth some close-to-home experiences for veterans)  that you can’t help but be moved.  I can’t recall ever seeing a war time funeral on screen but this sequence brought the most sobbing, which I can only credit to realism of the moment for those who have lost loved ones to the war.

This is the kind of movie that I am thankful to have experienced but hope to not experience again if that makes sense.  The performances are moving, the writing was solid, the story hopefully brought honor to the real life counter parts, but you walk out of that theater bruised.   And that’s probably part of the intent.  In all of the harsh reality, where many are likely left wondering why America has let these soldiers down, I had a different question.  What am I as a Christian to do in response?  God is no where in this movie, if anything a quote from the most recent episode of The Good Doctor may be appropriate “I can’t believe in God because if so I have to believe he has done this to me”.  This is the reality I imagine many of those coming home from the war with PTSD or worse may face, a reality without a creator.  A reality where if there was a God, he is to blame.  So perhaps we can remind our war heroes that despite their experiences, despite seeing things that the average man can’t imagine, that there is a God on his throne in heaven who saw them and gave up himself for them.  Who loves them when they may feel a country has turned their backs.

This is not a movie that is easy to recommend, to use my words from the opening, it’s a blunt force trauma experience.  I have heard that many veterans are using this movie to show family members what they could never share personally… if nothing else, the film can offer some reality to those friends and family that could never understand why.

5.5 out of 7I am giving this movie a high rating because from a film perspective, it delivers.  But its not an enjoyable movie, you don’t walk out feeling good, but that should not take away from the rating that reflects how well this movie delivers.  Rated R for violence, language, adult scenes and some sexuality.  This is absolutely not a movie for children.