"Last Ounce of Courage" Celebrates Patriotism, Fights for all Rights, not just Religion
Newly married Kari (Nikki Novak) kisses husband Tom farewell as he boards the bus for military service. About a year later, continuing anguish from his son’s death forces Kari and her new born Christian (Hunter Gomez) to separate from their grandfather.
Returning to Mount Columbus 14 years later, mom and now teenage son learn more than years and philosophies have separated the family and the community. Partly stemming from the town’s apathy, the celebration of Christmas has been relegated to just another holiday, with any mention of Christ’s birth stricken from city, county or school property.
Although primarily concentrated on religious expression, “Last Ounce of Courage” to its credit imparts a full span of constitutional freedoms , ranging from speech to peaceable assembly, which have narrowed following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Stressing the necessary to safeguard “freedoms to” by teaching children about American beliefs, “Courage” quotes President Ronald Reagan speech that “freedom is never more than one generation from extinction.”
As Mayor Revere seizes upon the town’s secular ‘holiday’ and his grandson’s “what did my dad die for?” inquiry , the story risks diluting its salute to veterans who gave all by shining its spotlight on the struggles with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its efforts to balance “equal rights” and “freedom from” misconceptions. But, he carefully asserts that the government must not “favor” one religious belief over another; his battle stands with those who regulate no religious display whatsoever in deference to the atheist minority.
The school system takes a significant portion of the heat, though a ban on Bibles at school, singing Christian Christmas Carols, and , even, the mention of Christ’s birth in a “winter” play. A drama teacher has secularized the miracle birth into an alien visit, which catapults rebellious drama students to exercise their “expression” to bring Jesus back to the stage, as the school superintendent dashes to close the curtain and turn out the lights.
Wisely told in a media circus of a conservative constitutionally inspired man taking on the system (thus the earlier mention of 70s liberal “Billy Jack” ), “Last Ounce of Courage” has cinematic flaws, though you could not tell its audience that --- they clasped at the conclusion and most sat through the credits (a rarity at a non-film festival in a non-filmmaking city).
Patriotism resounds loudly, though the separate emotions of ‘church’ and ‘state’ threaten an unwanted division. Same with the mayor’s personal public decisions without so much as an advance consultation with council members. His speech on the mission roof drags into pontification, too. (Sorry, I liked the old man with whiskers walk-on’s, conceding a pass for appropriate seasonal subtlety.)
Aside from convenient black and white reactions (i.e. the nuance of the superintendent jostling for a popular decision), this celebration of Founding Father freedoms dramatically meshes favorably with the Revere family’s own internal disagreements of which the vanishing cross, angels, lights, carols, and displays serve as mindful injections of roots, tradition, and unity.
Sure, the supporting cast has awkward amateur moments, the brief battle scenes appear obviously maneuvered for a small budget, and everyone except the anti-conservative nemesis (Fred Williamson) fall in to the obediently into the Christmas restoration. But, veterans military bravery as an inter-generational gift of service to freedom overcomes the film’s overly accentuating religious choice over other more controversial freedom to’s, which not so coincidentally intertwine in the choice of worship.