It’s the tale of a true-blue American hero, one who didn’t have superpowers, but was exceptional nonetheless.
The Last Full Measure, its title echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln about the ultimate sacrifice, is based on the true story of the three-decade effort to have William H. Pitsenbarger recognized for an act of selflessness in the Vietnam War that cost him his life on April 11, 1966.
The film is available now on Digital, and arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital), DVD and On Demand April 21 from Lionsgate.
The story follows Pentagon staffer Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan), who investigates a Congressional Medal of Honor request made by Pitsenbarger’s mission partner and parents to posthumously recognize the U.S. Air Force medic (played in flashback by Jeremy Irvine) who saved more than 60 men before making the ultimate sacrifice in the bloody Vietnam battle Operation Abilene. Huffman interviews Army vets to learn more about Pitsenbarger’s courageous acts — and uncovers a high-level conspiracy behind the medal’s denial.
“We never know in life when we show a random act of kindness or a random act of sacrifice what the effect might be 20, 30 years down the line,” says writer-director Todd Robinson in the extras.
“There’s a lot of remarkable courage out there, but Bill’s story is one at the top,” adds historian William Chivalette.
In addition to Stan, the star-studded ensemble cast includes Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Peter Fonda (in his last big screen performance), Diane Ladd, Amy Madigan, Bradley Whitford, Ed Harris and Samuel L. Jackson. Plummer and Ladd portray Pitsenbarger’s long-suffering parents, who wait patiently for their son to be properly recognized. Jackson, Hurt, Fonda and Harris play former servicemen who witnessed Pitsenbarger’s heroism and are still haunted by their war experiences.
“This is the struggle that all of our veterans face every day, is finding purpose and reason, and that’s really what the movie is all about,” says writer-director Todd Robinson in the extras. “I wanted to tell a story that transcends the Vietnam War — and frankly transcends war. They had a search for purpose that took 32 years, and in that purpose, came their healing.”
A featurette among the extras explores the film’s original score by composer Philip Klein, who felt the music had to match the heroism of its subject.
“The story deserved an orchestral score. It deserved something big and powerful,” he says in the featurette. “There was this enormous amount of responsibility that we all felt to make this worthy of this man.”
Other extras include interviews with the servicemen who actually witnessed Pitsenbarger’s actions in 1966, awed by his selflessness. Even three decades later, his choice to stay and help the wounded mystifies.
“There’s not a one of us that wouldn’t have left there if we could, and the only guy that could leave was Pitsenbarger, and he didn’t,” comments serviceman Ron Haley in the extras.
Also included in the extras is footage of a screening for veterans of Operation Abilene and Pitsenbarger’s family at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
“Our wish for you is simply that, when you leave here tonight, this picture has cracked the door open just a little wider for communication, that if you are a veteran, you either tell your part of this story or one like it, or that the rest of us might do our part to be good, patient witnesses and listen,” Robinson tells them.
BLU-RAY/DVD/DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE:
- “The Women of The Last Full Measure” Featurette
- “Medal of Honor Ceremony Shoot” Featurette
- “That Others May Live: Remembering Operation Abilene” Featurette
- “USAF Museum Screening with Veterans & Pitsenbarger Family” Featurette
- “The Music of The Last Full Measure” Featurette
- “William Pitsenbarger Tribute” Photo Gallery