The Last Full Measure tells the inspiring tale of Scott Huffman, a staff member at the Pentagon working for the Secretary of Defense, who — with the help of other Vietnam Vets — tries to overturn a decision that made the posthumous Medal of Honor into a lesser medal for a Vietnam War hero. Now this movie is a great many things, but a good movie is not one of them.
It is very clear from opening credits that The Last Full Measure wants to be that Oscar-winning movie that informs and inspires. From the overzealous score trying desperately to manipulate you to tears, to stock footage from the Vietnam War mixed in with action scenes, right down to the sweeping shots of Washington. This film definitely strives to be award-worthy, but unfortunately, that award feels like a Razzy.
The dialogue and shot composition near the opening and throughout most of the Washington scenes plays like Aaron Sorkin’s second cousin’s first attempt at a script. “Good job, Eddy, you can write a screenplay. We’ll put it right on the refrigerator for everybody to see.” The ever-present walk’n’talk through long hallways shots, but with a stupid amount of useless dialogue. The overabundance of patriotism combined with the right to do good above all else. None of it works. Not even Bradley Whitford could save this Sorkin-esque mess. Instead of a tale of righteous redemption, it ends up being a cheesy 90s movie. And we’re not in the 90s, we’re in the 2020s.
On a technical level, The Last Full Measure is also a big mess. For nearly two-thirds of the movie’s runtime, we are given terrible shot composition, inconsistent audio mixing, uninspired shot composition, jagged editing, and worst of all — an R-rating that doesn’t live up to its namesake. When we’re not in Vietnam, most of the dialogue has almost no profanity. Sure, there are a few F-bombs here and there and some light profanity, but nothing that’s unexpected for the audience. If it were rated solely on the Washington segments, this movie could easily be a hard PG or even a soft PG-13.
It’s only when we get to the Vietnam flashbacks that the R-Rating manages to sneak up and get ya. Oh wait, did I say sneak? I meant AMBUSH YOU. The gory violence during the war segments are so shocking and come almost without warning. The movie’s only consistency is the dark tone that underlies both segments. And even that doesn’t that last.
I feel like the pitch for this movie was West Wing meets Saving Private Ryan, but I don’t think the writer nor director realized that neither of those concepts mesh well together, and the result feels erratic. One moment, we have an uplifting speech of heroism and good deeds. The next moment, a 17 year-old watches his friends get blown up gruesomely. Then the next moment we have a father telling his son that the future of America will always be good. Then we have a poorly executed war sequence in which a 30 year-old man uses the corpses of his fallen friends as literal human shields. It was at this point that I looked at my watch, and I NEVER LOOK AT MY WATCH DURING A MOVIE.
To add further insult, the movie’s quality feels like a made-for-tv movie in with a slightly bigger budget. But it’s clear none of that budget went to editing. We zoom by large chunks of time with no warning and portions of the story feel like something was cut out or just downright missing. I had no idea that two years had passed until the very end of the story (and it certainly wasn’t because I was checking my watch). Time here is a construct that the filmmakers just blatantly ignored. It’s rushed, jagged, and clearly needed more time.
This movie taught me a valuable lesson: not all movies need to be greenlit.
But… that’s not to say it’s all bad. The story, or at least the bare bone versions of it, is actually quite interesting. The politics of it all, plus a good portion of the cast, keeps you focused and interested. I will say that, while I was having a bad time, I was at least engaged and invested. Sebastian Stan does a serviceable job, but the kid playing his son is just… well, he’s terrible. There’s no dancing around it, the kid’s absolutely terrible. Laughable even. And so is the actress playing his his wife.
But if you’re coming to see this movie, you will come to see it for the following actors: Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Plummer, Peter Fonda, Ed Harris, and William Hurt. These five actors must have severe back problems after having to hold this movie up.
Each time one of these actors are on screen, it’s like someone else decided to helm the movie. The writing is solid, the direction is good, the editing is slightly better, all of which makes the rest of the film jarring by comparison. Plus, the lessons and themes that each actor conveys are very insightful and make me feel like I knew more than I previously did. Their performances are — in a sense — Oscar worthy. One scene between Plummer and Jackson in particular felt so beautiful and real. And what made it even more so is that it contained not a spoken line of dialogue between the two of them. Moments like this truly were something special. However, there are several moments where things get SUPER hammy. Moments that should be a powerful, and emotional soon becomes cheesy and downright laughable due to the film’s overpowering score. I cannot even begin to tell you how many moments were ruined because of this soundtrack.
Peter Fonda’s last role is good. He did a good job and the movie is dedicated to his memory. I just wish his last movie was a better one, and that’s all I’m going to say.
Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars
The Last Full Measure is a bad movie — very cringey and awkward at times — but it did hold my attention for good portions of it. Most of the war segments, while misplaced, are done to a serviceable level. And it did have the potential to be something truly spectacular, touching upon personal aspects of the Vietnam war like PTSD. It’s just that those ideas are stuck in a mediocre story bogged down even further by cheesy 90s moments. What’s sad is that I liked the performances from the aforementioned veteran actors, but they’re the only reason why you should bother checking this out. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend it to ANYONE.