The Last Full Measure

There are two quagmires captured in The Last Full Measure: covering both the Vietnam War and the desperate battle to make a movie about politics that will please everybody. Writer and director Todd Robinson works really hard (and rewrites some history) in trying to make an official Quality Film out of the struggle to award real-life war hero William H. Pitsenbarger with the Medal of Honor in 2000. The pararescueman had already been posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross for saving multiple soldiers in a 1966 battle before being taken down by Viet Cong snipers. The contrived script still acts like Pitsenbarger had been forgotten before surviving soldiers fought to have him given the military’s highest honor. Glimpses of a great war film are only seen in flashbacks. Instead, most of the running time follows Sebastian Stan as a composite character of a bored Pentagon lawyer eventually driven to tears by the testimonials of composite damaged veterans portrayed by William Hurt, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Fonda, John Savage and Ed Harris, There’s also a composite bad guy protecting a convoluted conspiracy that’s likely fictional. Maybe it’s the kind of thing that had to be added before the screenplay could finally get produced after a bidding war in 2002. That’s pretty cynical, but the same can be said for a movie that wants to celebrate heroics while pondering the horrors of war before abruptly wrapping up things with a profoundly sappy ending. Composite bad guys aren’t so bad, after all!