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January 30, 2020

The Last Full Measure (2019) --- “The Ultimate Sacrifice Deserves The Highest Honor.”


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Hello, Movie Buffs!
     Directed and written by Todd Robinson (Phantom, Chicago PD), The Last Full Measure (2020) tells the true story of  Vietnam War hero William H. Pitsenbarger (Jeremy Irvine), a U.S. Air Force Pararescuemen (PJ) medic who personally saved over dozens of men under heavy fire during a rescue mission on April 11, 1966. Although he was offered the chance to escape on the last helicopter out of a combat zone, he chose to stay behind to save and defend the lives of the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division, before making the ultimate sacrifice in the bloodiest battle of the Vietnam war. 32 years later, disinterested Pentagon staffer Scott Huffman (Sebastien Stan) is on a career fast-track when he is ordered to investigate a previously denied Congressional Medal of Honor request for Pitsenbarger made by his parents (Christopher Plummer & Diane Ladd), his PJ partner (William Hurt), and the soldiers he saved, which was denied decades prior and downgraded to an Air Force Cross. As part of his investigation, Huffman seeks out the testimonies of the veterans (Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Fonda, and Ed Harris) who witnessed Pitsenbarger's extraordinary valor, despite the fact that he would rather be doing anything else. But as he learns more about Pitsenbarger’s courageous acts and uncovers a high-level conspiracy behind the decades-long denial of the medal, Huffman starts to take his job more seriously and becomes hell-bent on seeing Pitsenbarger awarded the decoration he so desperately deserves, putting his own career on the line in the process.
     The Last Full Measure is a full-throated, misty-eyed celebration of heroism that isn’t far removed from attending a military funeral because it inspires the same kind of emotions from its audience. Although making that sentiment compelling for two hours is a tall order, this is a solid and mournful drama that garners the viewer’s respect and admiration for Pitsenbarger, whose entire life gets reduced to a single act of uncomplicated nobility. This is why heroism is both complicated and simple, it usually requires a great sacrifice that is sometimes never intended to be repaid. The recurring flashback scenes to the rescue mission where Pitsenbarger was killed are raw and gritty, serving their purpose of depicting him as an angel of mercy during a time of hell, while the present-tense scenes, which take place in the late 90’s, lean heavily on emotional speeches about the kind of man Pitsenbarger was. Now keep in mind that this film is based on a true story, that doesn’t mean that it is entirely accurate and some of the present scenes are fictional. However, considering that facts and the difficult subject matter that the filmmakers were tasked with, I can understand why they made the changes they did in order to make a more audience-pleasing film. If you are interested then I recommend that you check out The Last Full Measure: Fact vs. Fiction to find out more.
     Sebastian Stan (Avengers: Endgame) is solid action and his performance as a composite character, Scott Huffman, is pretty good. At first, he appears to be one-dimensional and disinterested with everything, even his family, but as he slowly starts to understand the extent of Pitsenbarger’s heroism and how it has impacted others he starts to become a more endearing character to watch. As always, Christopher Plummer (Knives Out) does a great job as Frank Pitsenbarger and his speech about what it truly means to be a parent is heartfelt and meant to inspire Huffman to be a more present dad in his kids’ lives. This is a surprisingly gentle performance for Plummer, who prefers thornier roles, and I believe that he easily evokes the necessary warmth and kindness needed for the role. William Hurt (Goliath) as Tully, Ed Harris (Geostorm) as Ray Mott, Samuel L. Jackson (Spider-Man: Far From Home) as Takoda, and the late Peter Fonda (The Most Hated Woman in America) as Jimmy Burr all deliver outstanding performances that demonstrate how war affects people and what they do in order to cope with the aftermath of war. Bradley Whitford (The Call of the Wild) is great as the film’s antagonist, Carlton Stanton, the beautiful Alison Sudol (Fantastic Beasts as Queenie) as Tara Huffman helps remind us that Huffman is not completely a dispassionate heartless person, and Jeremy Irvine (The Billionaire Boys Club) was splendid as William Pitsenbarger
     Overall, The Last Full Measure (2020) is an entertaining drama about honor the service and sacrifice of those who fight for our freedom. Of course, Vietnam was a senseless and unnecessary war, and that is what makes Pitsenbarger’s story that much more heartbreaking. The story here is great and while it also subjects to fictionalization in order to be more pleasing to audiences, it does offer insight into what could have happened given certain circumstances. The cast performance was pretty solid despite the number of well-known actors on the roster sheet. This film is about respect, honor, sacrifice, and legacy, if you are a fan of any of those themes then I highly recommend that you check out this film.

Final Vote --- 8.2 of 10 stars

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