Sunday, January 28, 2018

Video review: "Last Flag Flying"

Despite boasting some big names, “Last Flag Flying” hasn’t made any kind of impact during the awards cycle, and quickly disappeared from theaters after a holiday release. That’s a pity. It may not be the best film by Richard Linklater, who co-wrote the script with Darryl Ponicsan, based upon his book. But it’s a worthy look at men weighing their lives, recalling their misspent days of youth while sitting upon the precipice of old age.

Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston play Vietnam veterans who reunite in 2003 to bury the son of one of them after he died in the Iraq war. They haven’t kept in touch in the intervening years, so they’re getting together again for the first time in three decades.

They have undergone changes, of course, and the spaces between them have grown larger. The one who seems the most different from his past is Richard Mueller (Fishburne), who was a rampaging he-man nicknamed “the Mauler” back in the day, and now is a dignified country preacher. Though we soon learn he still has some bite left.

On the flip side, Sal (Cranston) is still the caustic, hard-drinking, hard-partying womanizer he was back in the day. He’s just exchanged his battlefield habitat for the bar scene. He keeps things moving with his constant observations and confrontational quips, mostly directed at Mueller.

Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Carell) was the young, quiet kid in Vietnam, and he’s grown up into a quiet, seemingly meek man. There was some bad business that left Doc in the Navy brig for a couple years, a hazy matter in which they were all complicit but for which he took the fall.

Out of a sense of guilt over the past misdeed, Sal and Richard agree to accompany Doc on his mission to bury his son. The movie becomes a physical and existential journey as they travel by car, train and bus to see this last bit of military service done. This is very much Linklater’s version of “The Last Detail.”

“Last Flag Flying” has a caustic political bent, but in the end, it’s more about these specific men than a broader indictment of war or “the system.” I, for one, enjoyed spending time with them and hearing their stories.

Bonus features are a mite slim. There’s a making-of documentary short, a featurette on Veterans Day, outtakes and deleted scenes.



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