Last Flag Flying Movie Review
The movie “Last Flag Flying” is a somber reflection of the human costs of war, and it just happens to have a wild and raucous fun side. It deals with the start of the Iraq war, when a man loses a son in combat, but then calls on old Viet Nam war buddies to help him out. The result is a quiet declaration that war is never good, but that the military way of life is required (and preferred) in a dangerous world. And that patriotism is more than flying flags, it is being ready to defend your way of live and your beliefs.
Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell) seeks out an old friend in Portsmouth named Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston). Sal runs a run-down bar and grill (with no grill). They both served in Viet Nam many years ago. There is some unspoken reason that Doc spent a couple of years in the brig. But they brush that off and go to find one other pal from that old war. Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) is now a Baptist pastor and is happily married. When they were back in the war zone, the former Marines were not holy, but a Holy Terror.
Doc reveals that his reason to seek out his buddies is that could help him bury his son. Larry Jr. was also a new Marine who went over to Iraq in 2003, but he returned in a military casket. Doc needs the help of Sal and Mueller so that he can cope with the loss of his only son. Also, on top of that is the death of his wife earlier that year. So, the aging crew gets on the road to travel first to Arlington, then to Dover – to where his son is delivered from overseas.
They meet a young Marine named Washington (J. Quinton Johnson) who was a close friend of Larry Jr. and he tells them how he was killed. Doc refuses to have his son buried in Arlington, instead he wants to transport his body to his home in New Hampshire. The initial thought is to rent a U-Haul truck, and that has limited success. The Marine corporal in charge will help in getting the body and casket to Doc’s hometown. But he ordered Washington to take the train and stay with the old fogeys and with the casket as a moving Honor Guard.
There is not a huge action-packed sequence that happens, and most activity happens in cars, trucks and trains. But the amazing thing to watch is not the events or action, but the perfectly cast actors in each role. They each have a very distinct character and they interact with a wit and sparkle that brings each to life. The old war dogs have a deep secret that they eventually talk about, and they do everything that they can to right an old wrong.
All the acting of Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne is excellent. Cranston has the most frantic and watchable role. But Carell does an incredible job with the role as a broken man. Fishburne is a middle-ground of dignity and reason between the other actors. They have a very observable way of making the old friends who have not met in over twenty years look believable and natural. Also, Richard Linklater style of direction fits the story well, as it flows and meanders to the conclusion.
This movie will not ask you to stand up and cheer for foreign wars, whether they be in the South Asian Pacific or in the Middle East. It will ask you to silently bow your head to honor those whom have made great sacrifices to ensure America’s freedom. Hoorah…
Last Flag Flying Review
Last Flag Flying Summary
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Screenplay by: Richard Linklater & Darryl Ponicsan
Based on novel: Last Flag Flying (by Darryl Ponicsan)
Starring: Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, J. Quinton Johnson
Length: 124 minutes
MPAA Rating: R - language throughout including some sexual references