Hollywood has done surprisingly well on the subject of war veterans, from 1946’s The Best Years of Our Lives – long before post-traumatic stress disorder was a typical diagnosis – to more recent films like The Hurt Locker and American Sniper.
Jason Hall, the screenwriter of that last movie, now makes a sincere, unshowy directorial debut with this, a mostly quiet drama that burrows deep under the psychological scars of a group of Iraq combat vets returned home with memories they can’t shake off. Once a confident sergeant, Adam Schumann (Miles Teller) still scans the gutters of his Missouri suburb’s roads for plastic bags that might be hiding bombs; Solo (Beulah Koale), has deeper anxieties that make him desperate to blot out his memories however he can.
The movie kicks off a little shapelessly, true to the drifting, detached nature of these men, then snaps to attention too quickly in a third-act criminal subplot. But these anguished performances go a long way, as does the film’s peripheral vision of a banal, depressed America that threatens to forget its warriors.
The bottom line
An anguished study on the true effects of war.