I get why actors like to play soldiers in movies. It's hard not to look good in a uniform. You get to stare into the middle distance and clench your jaw the way badasses do. You get to swing around prop guns and yell things like "Get down!" and "Cover me!" Maybe it's not exactly realistic, but realism is rarely an equal partner in the relationship between movies and the military.
So it's to the filmmakers' credit that Thank You for Your Service, written and directed by American Sniper screenwriter Jason Hall, almost systematically deglamorizes modern warfare. Despite some surface similarities to American Sniper, Service is very much its own film, taking place almost entirely off the battlefield and out of uniform.
Miles Teller, Beulah Koale, and Joe Cole play a close-knit trio of Army infantrymen returning home from an especially traumatic tour in Iraq circa 2007. Deeply scarred by their combat experiences, they struggle to reintegrate into the relationships and responsibilities of civilian life. The film shifts between a number of subplots and perspective, some of which are more effectively rendered than others—but when the film lands, it lands like a fucking sledgehammer.
Teller typically projects a kind of fragile intensity that's well employed here. While the film divides its focus between a half-dozen dire themes—from drug abuse to dog fighting—whenever Teller's onscreen, his character's complex motivations are always clear. He's struggling to shore up the damaged men he once commanded in battle, while bearing the weight of his own PTSD and his obligations as a husband and father. It's not a glamorous performance, but it feels like an extremely truthful one.