Review: The Last Full Measure Doesn’t Focus Enough on Its Best Aspect
3/5 stars and stripes.
Maybe it’s because I’ve seen what war can do to people or maybe it’s because I have constantly been acutely aware of the fact that, if given the chance, I’d have been the “hippy” out there yelling about why Vietnam was bad, but there is something about The Last Full Measure that forced me into the idea that maybe movies meant to glorify the heroes of that war are not, particularly, movies for me.
That being said, I think what the movie does well is show the struggle these men had to face when they left the war and how America did nothing to help them.
Following the story of Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan) and his journey to get a Medal of Honor to William H. Pitsenbarger (Jeremy Irvine), the movie takes Scott to different members of the unit that Pitsenbarger saved. The Battle of Abilene was one of the bloodiest battles in the Vietnam war, one that ended Pitsenbarger’s life. An air force medic, Pitsenbarger refused to leave the battle when the unit’s medic was injured, helping over 60 men and fighting alongside them until his own death.
Nearly 30 years later, Pitsenbarger’s father, Frank (Christopher Plummer), and his air force friend Tully (William Hurt) embark on the mission to get Pitsenbarger the Medal of Honor he deserved after Vietnam, and we continue to meet those fallen in roles from Ed Harris, Peter Fonda, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Savage. Each man that Scott meets struggles with talking about that battle, lost in their own turmoil and their inability of coping with what happened to them, but the movie continually brings it back to Pitsenbarger.
To be quite honest, it’d be a lot more interesting if the movie focused more on their struggles and the fight within themselves after what Vietnam did to them. There is a part when Ed Harris, as Ray Mott, is trying to express himself, and he’s mumbling and just breaks down in front of Scott, and that pain, that struggle? It’s compared to Samuel L. Jackson’s Takoda’s inability to speak to Frank Pitsenbarger despite wanting to thank him for what his son did for his unit.
It’s a pain we often see in real life for those who serve, and often, in war movies, we see the act of war, but not the repercussions. Personally, I hate most Vietnam war movies except for movies like Across the Universe or Tropic Thunder, which point out (in their own ways) the nature of society during that time. But The Last Full Measure focuses more on the soldiers in a way that made me recognize the pain these men faced (and continue to face) after leaving the war and how it never really left them.
The Last Full Measure is a beautiful look at how we look at veterans, especially those who served in Vietnam, but I think there was a way of exploring the struggles of the men who survived the Battle of Abilene that I wish there was more of in the movie.
(image: Roadside Attractions)
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