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Soldiers struggle to readjust in ‘Thank You for Your Service’

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Koale, left, and Teller honor a fallen comrade.
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Two and a half stars

Thank You for Your Service Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Beulah Koale. Directed by Jason Hall. Rated R. Opens Friday citywide.

Like the platitude expressed by its title, writer-director Jason Hall’s Thank You for Your Service has the best of intentions but rings a bit hollow in its efforts to honor the sacrifices made by America’s troops. Sometimes playing more like a public service announcement than a drama, Hall’s directorial debut (he previously wrote the screenplay for American Sniper), based on the nonfiction book by David Finkel, follows Sgt. Adam Schumann (Miles Teller) as he attempts to adjust to life back home after three deployments in Iraq. To a lesser degree, it also follows Adam’s buddy and fellow soldier Tausolo “Solo” Aieti (Beulah Koale), who has an even tougher time dealing with PTSD, along with a traumatic brain injury.

As Adam and Solo navigate their way through Veterans Affairs bureaucracy and work to reconnect with family members, Hall offers up plenty of clunky lesson-learning moments, easily digestible illustrations of the challenges soldiers face after returning home. Although the characters are based on real people, they rarely come off as more than props for the movie’s messaging, especially during an ill-advised late-film subplot about Solo getting involved with drug dealers. Teller’s performance has moments of quiet intensity (although Koale’s is a bit shaky), and the movie is less overblown than American Sniper, more concerned with emotions than rah-rah action. It’s an admirable effort that never quite transcends its hokey educational trappings.

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