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The Last Full Measure
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Todd Robinson
prd Timothy Scott Bogart, Mark Damon, Nicholas Cafritz, Robert Reed Peterson
with Sebastian Stan, Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Samuel L Jackson, Ed Harris, Jeremy Irvine, Diane Ladd, Peter Fonda, John Savage, Bradley Whitford, Amy Madigan, Dale Dye
release US 24.Jan.20,
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A powerhouse cast lends gravitas to this fact-based drama, which works overtime to crank up the details into an inspirational story of selfless courage. Writer-director Todd Robinson indulges in a stream of emotive speeches that strain to evoke worthiness that would have emerged more effectively from the subtext. This sentimentality undermines a terrific story, but the actors are so strong that they pull the audience in deeper.
In 1999, Scott (Stan) is a Pentagon lawyer tasked with awarding the Medal of Honor to Bill Pitsenbarger, a heroic paratrooper from the Vietnam War. But "Pits" died 32 years ago, and efforts to upgrade his award have stalled. Pits' sensitive, observant Tom (Hurt) former colleague is championing this cause for Pits' ageing parents (Plummer and Ladd). And Scott also tracks down Billy (Jackson) on a fishing trip, Ray (Harris) on a shooting range and the traumatised Jimmy (Fonda), who avoids daylight. Eventually, Scott heads to Vietnam to meet Kepper (Savage) and hear his story.
Scott's quest is intercut with flashbacks to Pits (Irving) in the jungle during a fierce battle. These scenes add an action-packed urgency, even if they're neither coherent nor necessary. It's not easy to connect the young soldiers in the past with the present-day old men whose overwritten but earthy anecdotes are even more powerful than the flashbacks. And there are constant sideroads that feel oddly extraneous, perhaps Robinson's attempt to create an epic scale.
The veteran actors add a remarkable lived-in emotion to their roles, springing vividly to life as they share their stories with Scott, engagingly played by Stan as a guy who becomes increasingly invested in his job. Each character stands out, including Ladd and Madigan (as Jimmy's no-nonsense wife), while Plummer, Hurt, Jackson, Harris, Fonda and Savage are simply mesmerising. The actors playing their youthful versions are solid too, alongside the always compelling Irvine.
Understandably, Robinson clearly wants this movie to be a rousing statement about the importance of veterans, stressing that the sacrifices of the fallen are never in vain and will never be forgotten. In the process, the script kind of loses track of the personal perspective, which is involving but somewhat muddled by the growing sense of a larger military scandal. So while there are several sequences that pull firmly at the heartstrings, the film lacks the intimate urgency of similar movies like Hacksaw Ridge or Danger Close. But it still packs a big emotional punch.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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