LAST FLAG FLYING – A Review by Cynthia Flores
The film Last Flag Flying has the simplest of story lines. In 2003, three men who once served in the same Marine unit when they were young in the Vietnam war, reunite when one of them loses their only son, also a Marine, to combat in the Iraq war, and he asks them to go with him to the funeral. Sounds simple, but when the three men are a former Navy medic Doc (Steve Carell) and former enlisted Marines Sal (Bryan Cranston) and Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) who haven’t seen each other for over 30 years, then you are in for anything but simple.
Doc is the one that has lost his only son and has brought the three men back together. He spends a night of drinking with Sal at a bar that Sal owns and barely runs before letting him know why he’s there. Sal drops everything to drive his friend where he needs to go. Next they stop at a little church on the way to pick up Mueller, one of the baddest, drinking-est, fighting-est dudes that ever held a rifle. You can imagine Sal’s delight when he sees his old war buddy preaching from behind the pulpit.
Once at Arlington Cemetery, Doc finds out from his son’s best friend, Charlie (J. Quinton Johnson), how his son really died, not as a hero as the military told him, but just by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Mad with grief, Doc decides to pass on the burial at Arlington Cemetery and, with the help of his old friends, takes the casket on a bittersweet trip up the East Coast to his home in suburban New Hampshire to bury his son next to his now deceased mother.
Along the way the men reminisce about the crazy times they had when they were young and in the jungles of Vietnam. Sal still being a crazy fun-loving guy, is always trying to bring some humor to their daunting journey. Mueller spends the trip trying to convince Sal he has really changed and why. Doc is in mourning and leaning on the brotherhood and support he gets from his two friends. What I loved about this film is that the relationships between these men rings true and comes across as natural, not forced. Because of the powerhouse performances from all three men (Carell, Cranston, and Fishburne), you feel drawn into their lives. When they laugh, you laugh; when they cry, you will cry no matter how tough you think you are.
The film deals gently with the pangs of war both past and present. It’s hard to believe that this brilliant film of such emotional depth and complexity is from Richard Linklater. The self-taught Texan director that brought us the indie classic film Slacker and has made movies with mostly young actors or that were experimental or just odd. Well, with Last Flag Flying, he’s shown that he’s finally grown up and delivered a nuanced, touchingly human film that is accessible to a wider audience than just the indie circuit.
Last Flag Flying is a must see film this year. I believe it will be up for all sorts of awards this next Oscar season including Best Picture. I give this gem of a film an A+ rating and as the Marines would say, an “Oorah!”
Directed by Richard Linklater
Written By Richard Linklater, Darryl Ponicsan
Selig Rating A+
Drama / Comedy
Release Limited to Wide Nov 10th The Magnolia, AMC NorthPark, Angelika Plano
Starring: Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, J. Quinton Johnson
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.