REVIEW: The Last Full Measure (2020)

Theatrical Release Poster – Roadside Attractions

The following is a review of The Last Full Measure — Directed by Todd Robinson.

Todd Robinson’s The Last Full Measure is a war drama that tells the true story of William H. Pitsenbarger (played by Jeremy Irvine), a Vietnam War-hero, who died defending a unit of soldiers during a tough battle in 1966. The film, however, primarily follows Scott Huffman (played by Sebastian Stan), a relatively young Pentagon bureaucrat, thirty-two years later. After having met with Pitsenbarger’s parents and the soldiers that he saved, Huffman risked his career to tell Pitsenbarger’s story in an effort to have him awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Some part of me does wish that I had had the chance to see this movie before I watched Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods on Netflix. Because the films are, to some extent, quite similar. Both films are about Vietnam War-veterans reminiscing about a soldier who they lost in the war. Spike Lee’s film obviously has these very idiosyncratic sequences, whereas Todd Robinson’s film feels uneven and unspectacular. Da 5 Bloods is a better film in almost every respect, and, to reiterate, I think I would’ve appreciated Robinson’s film more if I hadn’t already fallen for Spike Lee’s Vietnam-retrospective.

Todd Robinson’s film, however, possesses an incredible cast. It’s, frankly, one of the most impressive casts in any new film I’ve seen this year. Other than Sebastian Stan in the lead role, the film features supporting performances from Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Bradley Whitford, Diane Ladd, and, in his last film role, the late, great Peter Fonda, to whom the film is also dedicated. Though the film has its issues, several scenes with the legendary actors mentioned above are very powerful.

Although the dialogue is not necessarily particularly original, the scenes with the veterans — played by Jackson, Harris, Fonda, Hurt, and John Savage — are quite good (with Peter Fonda’s PTSD-stricken character being the most memorable of them all), but Christopher Plummer‘s very moving performance as Pitsenbarger’s father is probably the best thing about the movie. Sebastian Stan is perfectly fine in the lead role, but his character, who is basically an audience-insert, feels a little bit hollow and bland. Bradley Whitford is fairly entertaining here, but the character that he plays is one-note.

The film is very uneven, as one half of the film is much, much stronger than the other. One half of the film, which works fairly well, follows Sebastian Stan‘s character as he listens to memories and explanations from the Vietnam War-veterans, who get to reminisce about and praise their fallen soldier and friend. However, throughout the film, we keep on returning to the act that the veterans believe should earn Pitsenbarger a Medal of Honor. These should be the film’s best and most exciting scenes, but these flashbacks, which feature unestablished younger actors that do not look enough like the legendary supporting cast mentioned earlier, are repetitive and slightly unconvincing.

Also, frustratingly, the film is oddly paced towards the end. When Sebastian Stan’s character finally decides to risk his career to improve Pitsenbarger’s legacy, it felt to me like the film sped up and moved too swiftly past the final tug-of-war that was needed to achieve their goal. Scott Huffman’s efforts on his own feel a little bit brushed aside. Of course, a political tug-of-war may not be the most exciting thing about the film, but it feels odd that the scenes depicting the loopholes that Sebastian Stan’s character had to jump through, including his interview on national TV towards the end of the film, are sidelined.

If you’re only going to watch one new film about Vietnam War-veterans this year, then that film should probably be Spike Lee’s outstanding Da 5 Bloods, since it is better in almost every way. Although Todd Robinson’s The Last Full Measure features an incredible cast and some moving performances, the film is both uneven and overlong. It is a very nice tribute to Pitsenbarger and the soldiers that he saved, but, as a film, it leaves something to be desired.

5.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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