The Last Full Measure: Film Review

The Last Full Measure

I love films which shed light on one person’s bravery and The Last Full Measure is the perfect example of that – it tells the story of William H. Pitsenbarger (Jeremy Irvine), a United States Air Force Pararescue (PJ) medic who went above and beyond the call of duty during the Vietnam War.

Despite being a war movie, The Last Full Measure spends a lot of time wrapped up in bureaucracy as it is framed around Pentagon staffer Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan) investigating a Medal of Honor request for Pitsenbarger made by his fellow PJ partner on the mission, Tully (William Hurt), and his parents Frank and Alice (Christopher Plummer and Diane Ladd). Huffman is tasked with interviewing veterans who can vouch for Pitsenbarger and he eventually starts to question why the late airman has been denied the honour for so many years.

I understand why the movie focussed on Huffman’s investigation but I would have liked to have spent more time in the flashbacks witnessing Pitsenbarger’s act of bravery. During a rescue mission on 11 April 1966, the medic declined a chance to escape on the last helicopter out of a combat zone and put his life on the line to help his fellow soldiers, with him personally saving over sixty men. The way this part of the story is shot doesn’t do justice to Pitsenbarger’s extraordinary sacrifice. It is told in an average and cheap-looking way, almost like it is made for TV, and in short sharp bursts of flashbacks that make it quite hard to understand what happened (it’s even more difficult if you don’t know war/army lingo).

The Last Full Measure is rather moving, by the very nature of its subject material, with the veterans given moments to show the profound and lasting impact the war had on them. However, it really milks that fact at the end when it gets super patriotic and really tries hard to drive that emotion home. The ending was a bit over the top but it still brought a tear to my eye, as did real interview footage with the veterans in the credits.

Despite the worthy subject and amazing cast – also including Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, and the late Peter Fonda (in his final film role) – The Last Full Measure is never more than a distinctly average war movie.

Available to watch on major digital platforms now

Rating: 3/5

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