Tag Archives: Haley Bennett

“Thank You for Your Service”

LOUISA: 4 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I’m drawn to war movies that simultaneously pay tribute to our veterans yet have a staunch anti-war message, and “Thank You for Your Service” is one to add to the list of other films in that same vein (“The Deer Hunter,” “Platoon,” “Fury”). This sobering look at soldiers returning from war and the horrific emotional impact of combat suffers only briefly from flashes of predictability and overall presents a realistic portrait of PTSD.

Based on a true story from the 2013 novel of the same title by David Finkel, the film follows a trio of soldiers (Miles Teller, Beulah Koale, Joe Cole) returning from Iraq. It starts off like every other war movie as the men struggle to integrate back into civilian life. Their children barely know them, and their wives (Haley Bennett, Erin Darke) hardly recognize them anymore with their stark changes in personality. What’s shocking is that the film manages to avoid most of the usual ‘soldiers coming home’ clichés, instead painting a haunting and authentic portrait of the mental struggles of veterans who wish aloud they were disfigured or even dead rather than having to live a life trapped in a constant cycle of self-doubt and severe depression.

This is a gripping story that’s intimate and beautifully filmed. It’s a story that’s bleak, dramatic, and compelling, and it’s incredibly well acted (this is easily one of Teller’s best performances). Teller and his co-star Koale excel at portraying the sensibilities of the modern soldier, paying tribute to the men (and women) who put forth a stalwart exterior yet bury an emotional fury of pain, blame, and regret.

The story is emphatically human and intimate, not the type of film with a rah-rah patriotic message or preachy ‘Christian values’ propaganda viewpoints. In fact, this is one of the few movies about the military that doesn’t resort to any overt religious imagery. Now that’s something we should all appreciate no matter our beliefs.

This is a thought provoking and eye-opening film that presents an unflinching look at the traumatic aftermath of the tortuous mental anguish and residual torment suffered by many of our veterans. After every war there are soldiers who return carrying debilitating guilt to the point where they can no longer function as regular human beings. It’s a sadly relevant topic that explores how America fails her forgotten heroes. Shame on our country for abandoning these brave men and women who return home beaten and battered yet are turned away and unable to get basic psychological help. We have to do better and we have to be better than to let them suffer this way.

Warning for animal lovers: there is a very graphic and very disturbing dog fighting scene, so prepare yourself. It works well as a metaphor for a soldier’s wartime mentality so I understand why it was included, but it’s tough to sit through. And of course, there are plenty of disturbing, bloody war scenes involving humans too.

“The Girl on the Train”

LOUISA:  2 STARS MATT: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

If you’re hesitant to see “The Girl on the Train” because you fear that it will be too much like “Gone Girl,” you’re on to something. The twists, turns, storyline, and general atmosphere are so reminiscent of the 2014 film that they could almost seamlessly blend together into one (my loyal readers will remember my thoughts on “Gone Girl”: it made my Worst of the Year list).

Divorced alcoholic Rachel (Emily Blunt) was fired from her office job a year ago, but she still makes her daily commute via train every single day. As Rachel stares out the moving window, she begins to notice an alluring couple living a few doors down from her old house. After passing the same view every day, she begins to create names and stories in her head. When the woman of the house (Haley Bennett) goes missing, Rachel gets involved in a ridiculous story of intrigue, deception and murder.

The film is poorly written, with crummy dialogue and ludicrous plot twists that leave gaping holes in the story. There’s not even some profound theme at play either, this is a by-the-numbers thriller with too many plot gaps and unanswered questions. The silly, manufactured drama feels as though it’s geared solely to the same lonely hearts who sit around reading Nicholas Sparks books but long for some excitement in their mundane suburban existence. The characters themselves all hate their upper middle class lives and their fancy sports cars and their lovely homes. I didn’t like any of these whiny, unpleasant characters. I found all of them unlikable and grossly uninteresting.

The dreary, flat cinematography amplifies the film’s sluggish pacing and may very well aid in putting some viewers to sleep. The laughable acting from the supporting cast, including Justin Theroux as total scoundrel Tom, Rebecca Ferguson as his new wife Anna, and Luke Evans as a suspicious, abusive husband, plays like a Lifetime made-for-tv movie. Blunt is far and away the best thing here, but even she can’t carry this mediocre movie. Such a shame that her talent is squandered in this mess.

“The Girl on the Train” is a thriller that’s far from thrilling. I left the theater asking myself: “Where was the tension? Where was the suspense?

MATT SAYS:

Everything about the marketing for “The Girl on the Train” made it seem like a “Gone Girl” rip-off. A hot beach read turned suspenseful thriller, released in October, with what you know will be a big twist coming towards the end. After seeing the movie, I can tell you that’s exactly what it is. The biggest difference between “Train” and “Gone Girl” is that the lead in “Train,” Emily Blunt, is amazingly good at carrying a film that is not.

The story in “The Girl on the Train” is not exactly compelling stuff. Rachel (Blunt) is a worker whose daily train commute always takes her past a house whose residents (an apparently passionate couple, played by Haley Bennett and Luke Evans) fascinate her. Somehow, Rachel’s obsession with the couple turns into action, where she entangles herself in the couple’s lives. When the woman disappears, Rachel (whose behavior is becoming increasingly erratic) is one of the primary suspects.

There are two primary problems with this “Train.” First, it moves a little too slowly. The revelations about Rachel, the couple, and another neighboring family, are dripped out, one by one, at a pace that becomes frustrating. Second and more importantly, in Rachel the film has constructed a protagonist that is fundamentally unlikable. That’s not Blunt’s fault; I think you’re not supposed to like her. But at the same time, she’s not so unlikable that you hate her. This is a tricky line to walk in story construction: you need audience investment in the main characters. You need people to feel strongly about them in one way or another. When the moviegoer’s primary emotion is one of indifference, it’s hard to create momentum or draw a compelling narrative.

If you’re looking for a mildly entertaining weeknight watch and have no better options, I suppose “The Girl on the Train” might suffice. But it’s certainly not a movie you should seek out.