On April 11th, 1966, three companies of the 1st Infantry Division, known as the "mud soldiers" were pinned down by Viet Cong forces outside of Cam My, Vietnam. Pararescuemen of the 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron were dispatched to evacuate the wounded. The battle raged and the soldiers were taking a heavy beating.
As if an angel were descending from the heavens, Airman First Class William H. Pitsenbarger, lowered onto the battlefield to tend to the wounded. When given the opportunity to fly back to base, he elected to stay and care for the men he didn't even now who were still in harm's way. He did all he could to save his fellow troops before paying the ultimate price. Pitsenbarger's sacrifice ensured nine men made it home.
In the aftermath of the battle, Pitsenbarger was awarded the Air Force Cross. However, his fellow PJ's and the mud soldiers he fought alongside continued to advocate for the award to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Yet, it wasn't until the year 2000 when he was finally bestowed the Congressional Medal of Honor for giving, what President Lincoln said during his Gettysburg Address, his last full measure of devotion.
Written and directed by Todd Robinson, “The Last Full Measure” follows Scott Huffman, a jaded Pentagon lawyer (played by Sebastian Stan,) as he is tasked with upgrading Pitsenbarger's Air Force Cross to the Medal of Honor at the behest of Pitsenbarger's fellow pararescueman veteran (played by William Hunt) and father (portrayed by Christopher Plummer).
The story unfolds as Huffman pieces together the gallantry of Pitsenbarger through pieces of information from the soldiers who had been saved back in Vietnam. Samuel L. Jackson, the late Peter Fonda, Ed Harris, and John Savage each portray the Mud Soldiers and give fantastic performances as their stories flash back to their younger selves being saved by Pitsenbarger (portrayed by Jeremy Irvine).
Kimberly Breyer, the niece of William Pitsenbarger, was in attendance of the world premiere of “The Last Full Measure.” She told We Are The Mighty, "This film means people get to hear the very important true stories of my uncle Billy Pitsenbarger, Frank, Alice, and all the people who fought with him. We want as many people who possibly can so these stories keep being told and retold."
She also noted how true to life Christopher Plummer's portrayal of her grandfather, Frank Pitsenbarger, felt. "When we saw it, especially my grandma Alice, the hair went up on the back of her neck and she started to cry. He makes me miss Frank so much. We're very grateful to him for how beautifully he portrayed our grandfather on screen and how hard everyone worked for so many years to get this project to come together because it's so unique in so many ways."
The production covers two key time periods, from the jungles of Vietnam to the halls of the Pentagon. The star-studded cast filmed in the United States and Thailand to portray the retelling of Pitsenbarger's sacrifice. While staying away from focusing on the typical action motifs, the film dives deep into the psyche of the troops who returned home and gives an accurate depiction of the behind the scenes of how a Medal of Honor is awarded. Not to spoil anything from the film but, as with everything involving The Pentagon and politics, it involves plenty of bureaucratic red tape.
Dale Dye, USMC veteran who served in the Vietnam War and military advisor for many of the greatest war films and television series, also ensured the film stayed as accurate as possible. It's all the perfectly-captured little moments that help set the stage.
He tells We Are The Mighty, "This is a film that goes directly to my heart and soul. And the reason is because it talks about the selfless nature of veterans and the dedication we have towards each other. This is a story of veterans who go to extraordinary lengths to get recognition for one of their own. And that's the nature of every combat veteran."
The writer and director of the film, Todd Robinson, tells We Are The Mighty, "The military was very bullish about this film. It promotes a career field called pararescue, which promotes saving lives. So it wasn't hard for them to get behind this film."
“The Last Full Measure” is a beautiful film that is rare in Hollywood. It's not an action-packed film made with set pieces for the trailers. It's not an overly played-out drama that uses war as backdrop. It's the real life story of a man who gave his all for his fellow troops and those men fighting tooth and nail to get him the honor he deserved.
I can't recommend this film enough for every veteran, active duty troop, their family, and anyone whose life has been touched by the actions of these brave men and women. See it in theaters on January 24th.
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