When you talk about War Films, you talk about The Bridge On The River Kwai, Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan and 1917 but not many discuss the life of a fallen soldier. What happens to his parents when he leaves them without any notice, when he doesn’t say goodbye to his loved ones and when he doesn’t come back after promising his friends. The Last Full Measure is that film which handles this life of a War Hero who sacrificed himself for his ‘brothers’ and had to wait for three decades to earn the accolade he so rightly deserved.
21-year-old William H. Pitsenbarger (Jeremy Irvine) lost his life to save 60 soldiers during the bloodiest day of the Vietnam War. Being an Air Force rescue medic, he had no reason to be down on the ground but he chose to stay back and help the injured than take the easy way out. Despite not being awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his valor and courage, his family (Christopher Plummer, Diane Ladd) and friend Master Sgt. Thomas Tulley (William Hurt) continued their struggle until the matter landed in the lap of a Pentagon employee Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan). How Scott Huffman defied odds to get the fallen hero his rightful honor and what issues he had to face in order to reach his goal, that’s what the film is all about!
The film is based on a true story, a story that shouldn’t have happened had the bureaucracy been sincere at first. The film highlights the shameful and shocking details of the matter that took 34 years to complete, and the use of brilliant actors made the film more irresistible. The fantastic cast included Christopher Plummer and Diane Ladd as the parents and William Hurt as the best friend of Jeremy Irvine’s William H. Pitsenbarger whereas Ed Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, and Peter Fonda played the older versions of the soldiers he saved on that fateful day. In what turned out to be his final performance, Peter Fonda was brilliant in whatever scenes he had, as were William Hurt, Samuel L Jackson, Ed Harris and Christopher Plummer.
And then there was Sebastian Stan, better known as Bucky Barnes to fans of Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here, he has cut his hair short and lost weight to look more like a bureaucrat than a Super Hero but how he manages to do his job is nothing short of heroic. He is shown as the person who is there from the first frame till the last and matches the performance of all the actors he shares the screen with. At first, his character did give the impression that he wasn’t much interested in a job that was thrust upon him, but as the film progressed, he realized that he was supporting the wrong team that had no interest in serving justice. The script, the dialogues, and the war scenes were well-executed but the best of all was the final scene where the patient parents finally got what they deserved. It would be impossible for anyone in the audience to stop tears flowing from their eyes, such was the impact of that one scene!
If you are a fan of war film but don’t like dialogues that take place away from the war zone, then this film will not make you fall in love with it. Due to less action that 1917 that is also being screened around the world, The Last Full Measure would seem long to some. The fateful day was inserted into the story very intelligently but by the time the film ends, many were criticizing the back and forth editing, which seemed forceful at times. Jeremy Irvine who plays the main character doesn’t appear except for in Vietnam, depriving the audience of a connection with the fallen hero. Had the film been a little shorter, it would have managed to do even better.
The Verdict 3.5/5
The Last Full Measure takes the audience on a ride that they will not forget. From the actions of the Vietnam War to the bureaucratic battle three decades later, it combines all ingredients of a good war film into one. Be it the way Sebastian Stan conducted his investigation or the tear-jerker climax, the film managed to stir the emotions exactly how director Todd Robinson would have imagined. With an ensemble cast, a story that needed to be told and dialogues that landed close to heart, The Last Full Measure turned out to be a film that would go down as one of its kind. The presence of Pakistani – American Habib Paracha in the credits as executive producer is also one of the reasons to go and watch the film, and feel proud of our countryman’s achievements.