A War film, you say. About the Vietnam conflict – perhaps not my cup of tea. Well, look again as these statements are correct but the film does not glorify the war even though it deals with an unsung American hero, William Pitsenbarger. The war in Vietnam was both unnecessary and a disaster for the US. In the process too many lives on both sides were needlessly lost.
The Last Full Measure tells the true story of Vietnam War hero, William H. Pitsenbarger (Jeremy Irvine), a U.S. Air Force medic who gave his life on the battlefield to personally save the lives of over sixty men. Initially passed over for a Medal of Honor, the story follows the efforts of a Pentagon staff member, Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan) as he tracks down veterans to piece the story together. When Scott Huffman is given the task of finding out just why Pitsenbarger was given a minor medal instead of the high one he had been recommended for, he is not very happy.
Considering it a lowly assignment he reluctantly starts by interviewing Sgt Thomas Tulley (William Hurt) who has been trying to get his former friend recognized properly. From Tulley, Huffman learns of others who saw or were saved by the airman’s extraordinary courage. He interviews some of them, including Takoda (Samuel L. Jackson), Burr (Peter Fonda) and Mott (Ed Harris), who have memories of their time in Vietnam – often leaving them with nightmares over their traumatic time.
Huffman learns that Pitsenbarger was not even supposed to be fighting on the ground. He was an airman, part of a rescue crew. But when he saw what was happening to the US casualties trapped and under heavy fire at Xa Cam My he stayed, giving first aid and evacuating those who were badly wounded. More than 30 years later, the soldiers on the ground speak of their appreciation of their comrade. Huffman also gets to know Bill Pitsenbarger’s parents (Christopher Plummer and Diane Ladd), who fill him in on personal memories of their brave son.
Huffman’s pursuit of the truth, with the support of his wife (Alison Sudol), endangers his career, but Huffman has been so moved by the story of the brave airman that he continues the fight to have him properly recognized.
Sometimes the dialogue is a little pedestrian, but the story – which is obviously factually based – rings true and the actors give honest performances. Perter Fonda looks strained, which is fine for the part he is playing, and this is actually his final film. The director tells the story well and gives even small parts the chance to make an impact. The war episodes set in 1966 are a little confusing, as young actors play the older actors who are later interviewed about their part in Pitsenbarger’s heroic activities. But luckily most of the film takes place in the world of the USA. A well-acted and directed movie with very emotional final scenes.
The Last Full Measure will be available on all major digital platforms from Monday 1st June