By David Lee Zamora
Special to the Parade
Based on the true story of William Hart Pitsenbarger’s fellow Vietnam War veterans and family’s thirty-year long fight to get him the Medal of Honor for his brave service during the Vietnam War, “The Last Full Measure” is a heartbreaking, yet great, film,
Pitsenbarger was a United States Air Force Pararescueman who flew on almost 300 rescue missions during the Vietnam War. In his last rescue mission, he left the safety of his helicopter to help the ambushed ground forces to faster lift the wounded. He saved sixty men and declined pick up from the rescue helicopter. He even picked up a rifle to help hold the line. Pitsenbarger was eventually killed by a Vietnamese sniper. It is said that when his body was found, he held a rifle in one hand and a medical kit in the other.
The film focuses on Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan), a Pentagon staffer investigating a Medal of Honor request for Pitsenbarger (Jeremy Irvine) made by his best friend and fellow U.S. Air Force Pararescueman partner on the mission, Tully (William Hurt), and his parents Frank Pitsenbarger (Christopher Plummer) and Alice Pitsenbarger (Diane Ladd). As Huffman hears from several of the vets that were saved by Pitsenbarger during his final rescue mission, we see flashbacks of their stories. This makes up a good chunk of the film and is incredibly brutal to watch at times, because they are based on true events, accentuated by the great acting the film is filled with. This all leads to Huffman deciding if he’s willing to put his career on the line to get Pitsenbarger his long-awaited Medal of Honor.
The acting in “The Last Full Measure” is phenomenal. The A-List cast acts their hearts out, making you feel like you are on the verge of crying throughout most of the film after hearing their stories of what they’ve been through since the war, except for Sebastian Stan, who somehow feels more like an empty husk for a majority of the film. Although I do feel like this was intentionally done to focus more on Pitsenbarger’s story than what Stan’s character was going through.
Samuel L. Jackson does what most other famous Hollywood actors can’t, acting like a different character rather than himself. Jackson plays Takoda, a Vietnam War veteran who blames himself for Pitsenbarger’s death, because he accidentally calls down artillery fire on his own squad. Jackson’s odd sense of stoic sadness is incredibly saddening. Plummer, who plays Pitsenbarger’s father Frank, delivers one of the best scenes, when he says he misses seeing his son mow the lawn and how his son will never truly know the love Frank had for him, because he will never be a father. This made the incredibly intense, ever-growing lump in my throat feel like it was going to explode.
The film’s runtime is 1 hour 56 minutes.