The scars that can’t be seen, shown on the big screen
Explosions. Blood. Pain. For many of those serving in the military, war leaves scars that aren’t visible to the naked eye. Director Jason Hall’s “Thank You for Your Service” documents these scars through the emotional story of three soldiers after their service in Iraq. Miles Teller portrays Adam Schumann, one of the soldiers who struggles to reconnect with his family alongside his fight with post-traumatic stress disorder. The film gives audiences a glimpse into the daily lives of military veterans, starting the conversation that the war doesn't end when they come come.
Hall, Teller and Schumann sat down with The Eagle to discuss the film and the significance of starting a deeper conversation about PTSD.
EAGLE: Jason, with this being your directorial debut, how has your experience working on this film differed from other projects you’ve done in the past?
HALL: You know, it’s more a marathon than a sprint. You write a script, you sprint for 12 weeks. You turn in a draft, and then you sprint for a couple more. This is a marathon and your turn to sprint the entire time, you know? For me, it was great because I got to make the decisions. When I write something, I see what it is. I see in my mind every room, every scene, all of it. If you hand it over to someone, they’re going to see something else no matter what you wrote. So for me, it was an opportunity to bring it home.
EAGLE: Miles, were there any certain steps you had to take in order to prepare yourself for such an emotional role?
TELLER: I started reading. I read both books that David Finkel wrote, “Good Soldiers” and “Thank You for Your Service,” and then I read some books recommended to me on PTSD specifically and mental health. Those were good, and I could absolutely draw upon that, but just for me as a person, I don’t learn as much from reading something as much as I do just experiencing and being with Adam those two or three days. And then getting put through a boot camp where I felt like really getting in the mind of a soldier and what these guys went through as a cast. Going through collective suffering together really bonded us more so than any experience I ever had leading into a movie.
EAGLE: Adam, do you think the film successfully encapsulated the experience of having PTSD? Was there anything the film wasn’t able to capture?
SCHUMANN: Yeah, it got it right. PTS is different for everybody. I don’t think any one person that would ever have it or has experienced with it would watch this and go, “That’s not how it is” or “This isn’t how that was,” but I think it blanketed very well and covered all the bases that people deal with. As far as not, if there was anything that wasn’t, sure. I’m sure there are some stuff, but is that going to relate to an audience —
HALL: We got the wrong dog. Your dogs.
SCHUMANN: Oh yeah, yeah, stuff like that where there’s a Rottweiler versus a Pitbull. But those details don’t matter to me. What mattered to me was that the general feel was there.
HALL: And we didn’t approach this like a PTSD story, you know? We approached this as a personal story of these three guys coming home and the struggles that they went through. It’s easy for us to sort of categorize it like it’s this or it’s that. There’s a lot of stuff that people go through coming home. These guys went through this, some guys don’t go through it, some guys come home and they’re fine. Other soldiers go through different circumstances and conditions. But what we tried to do is tell the personal stories of these three guys coming home, and what that after-wars look like.
EAGLE: What was your favorite scene in the film?
HALL: Watching those three guys jump around with their arms around each other and celebrate that brotherhood was pretty cool.
TELLER: I enjoyed the action sequences just because we got our butts kicked in boot camp and we learned all this stuff just to kind of like, forget about it. Just that, that colors you, all these characters we’re playing went through this boot camp and went through much more extreme circumstances than we had in this condensed week of boot camp. But actually like, finally getting the kits on, and getting the weapons on, and moving as a squad and feeling very confident in that because we had been training for that, to me, that was a reward because we had gotten our butts kicked trying to learn all that stuff.
SCHUMANN: My favorite was me and my wife in the VA talking with the terapist. And it’s fucking horrible, but they have this little joke between them and there’s a smile and there’s that small spark of hope and, I lost my shit every time I see it so that’s my favorite part.
HALL: That’s the best scene of the movie.
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