Director and Co-Writer Richard Linklater tackles the military and mourning in Last Flag Flying. Does the film succeed beyond its fantastic cast?
Set in 2003, the film follows Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell) as he recruits his old Vietnam buddies, Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), to help him bury is son, who was killed while serving overseas. What results is a much longer road trip than they’d bargained for filled with humor, anger, sadness, and coming to terms with the past as the three personalities clash after seeing each other for the first time in thirty years.
Last Flag Flying is a solid film that I greatly enjoyed. Linklater, along with Co-Writer Darryl Ponicsan, who also wrote the novel on which the film is based, has crafted a funny and heartwarming tale that is also unafraid to offer commentary on some of the insanity about the military. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the film is anti-military, because the characters ultimately take their service very seriously, it definitely gets its criticisms in about how the military and especially the government handle certain things. If you’re deeply patriotic and can see no faults in America, you may not like this movie very much for some of the shots it takes.
As a road trip story, the film is not very long on plot—it’s really about the journey—but it is carried by the strong performances of its three leads. Bryan Cranston leads the way with the most demonstrative of the performances. Sal is a big personality and Cranston chews all the scenery he can. However, when the script calls for him to get serious, he delivers there too. Laurence Fishburne gives a great performance too, but he also has the unenviable task of playing the straight man to Cranston’s antics. He gets in some good shots himself, though. However, while Cranston has the showier role, the real star of the film is Steve Carell. Carell is able to convey a screenplay’s worth of words with just a look and his performance here will remind people—or clue in those who were unaware—of what a powerhouse actor he is. His performance is fantastic.
Overall, I enjoyed Last Flag Flying a lot. The plot could have been a bit more involved, but I loved spending time with these three actors and characters. Check it out if you can before Star Wars swallows the box office.