Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Review: The Last Full Measure

Release date: January 24, 2020
Running time: 110 minutes
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Jeremy Irvine 

The Last Full Measure is inspired by the true story of Airman William H. Pitsenbarger, a man who gave his life in Vietnam while helping his fellow soldiers in an ambush.  Pitsenbarger was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor over 30 years after this, and the Last Full Measure tells this tale in a setting where a fictionalized Pentagon Staffer is working to make this award possible.   

I am always wary of movies that are inspired by true events.  When Hollywood gets its hands on a story and twists it to a more pleasing form, it can sometimes help the overall experience but often makes an important story seem manufactured or ridiculous.  The movie does a very accurate job with the battle that Pitsenbarger fought in and the chaos and carnage that ensued.  And the vehicle that the filmmakers chose to tell this story, with a fake staffer and the journey track down evidence for this award, does try to explore some of the effects of battle and the issues that our veterans are going through due to their service.  

However, the framework of the Pentagon staffer tracking down the soldiers that also participated that day takes this inspirational story and pushes it too far into Hollywood.  This is reflected in some of the Hollywood touches that seem to permeate this film.  The dialog is overly dramatic and often hit or miss; sometimes it does not feel natural and does not have a good flow.  The awkward dialog is not helped by some inconsistent performances by the actors, including, surprisingly, Sebastian Stan.  Samuel L. Jackson is solid throughout, but many of the scenes feel like they could have used additional takes.  Additionally, in order to tell the story the staffer travels all throughout the country (and beyond) in the span of a few weeks.  The performances do improve and the overall story gets better as the film progresses, and by the end of the film, the filmmakers succeed in imparting on you an important story about a soldier and the ramifications of war.  However, the Hollywood creation of the fake staffer causes the focus of the movie to largely move away from Pitsenbarger and on this staffer who is learning the story.  And it introduces an odd distrust of bureaucracy from dramatic effect when accounts of the story do not include any sort of malfeasance.  

The Last Full Measure tells an important story of courage and sacrifice, but does so through a Hollywood lens that adds some important lessons within its overly dramatic dialog.

Rent It

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