Although I am not partial to viewing too many films about the effects of war on soldiers, the job will require me to do so. Writer/director Richard Linklater’s feature film “Last Flag Flying” (co-written with Daryl Ponicsan, author of the book that “The Last Detail” (1973) was based on) is one that many viewers will find easy to follow without having to have viewed the film from a few decades ago. As I understand from other material I have read on the Internet, it is not exactly a sequel, but has many similarities. I lived through watching 18 and 19 year old young men drafted to the Vietnam War straight out of high school and if they returned (many did not), they truly were never the same. Many who served in Vietnam to this day will not speak of what they saw or experienced, leading many to not be able to adjust to civilian life well, if at all. The script is good in general and the performances are outstanding as Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carell take the lead as three middle-aged war veterans who end up in an unplanned reunion (of sorts) when Carell’s character, Larry (known as Doc) shows up unannounced at a bar run by Sal (Cranston) in late 2003. The alcoholic, bad mouthed Sal does not recognize Larry initially, as he has not seen him in decades, and is not eager to visit the past he has tried to bury. The resulting road trip is one that is not the most unpredictable, but it is engaging because of the ensemble cast keeps it so.
The “Last Flag Flying” script has plenty of banter between the three veterans about what they did, how they regret some of the action or inaction during their tour of duty, as well as their mistrust for the government. They know how the system worked back when they served and certainly have reason to question authority when the newly widowed Doc is about to face receiving the body of his deceased Marine son killed in Baghdad while on active duty. He wants support from those he knew from his former military days – and won’t take no for an answer.
Carell’s performance is one that is melancholy and at first, I did not recognize him with a thin mustache, wire-rimmed glasses from the era, yet he appears as if the tears might roll at any time. He is former military and does not allow himself to although it is understandable if he did cry. Cranston’s turn as an alcoholic, outfitted in jeans and a black leather jacket, hits the mark as a perfect jerk. Listening to him insult everyone he wants to, you think you might smell him and the dive bar at any given moment.
Richard (Laurence Fishburne) is now overweight and gray as a long-married reverend who wants nothing to do with this blast from the past, but is civil. Known as “Mueller the Mauler” while in the military, the surname is something he does not want to explain to his wife or congregation in the least.
Even when the three visit a deceased soldier’s mother (played by Cicely Tyson), their efforts do not sound genuine when explaining why they are there. It is not because of the actor’s performance is not adequate, but these characters really do not own up to their past involvement.
Other cast members include Yul Vazquez (“The Infiltrator”), J. Quinton Johnson (“Everybody Wants Some”), Samuel Davis and Kate Easton, among others.
This will make a good film to view; given Veteran’s Day is drawing near. Some people may not want to view it, but these casualties of war are very real and live among us. I recommend this film.
This film is rated R and the running time is 124 mintues.
By Liz Lopez
Source: Amazon Studios