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Sandy Journal

Dan's Review: "Last Flag Flying" explores relationships of war

Nov 22, 2017 06:01PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Laurence Fishburne, Steve Carell, and Bryan Cranston in Last Flag Flying - © 2017 Lionsgate.

Last Flag Flying (Amazon/Lionsgate)

Rated R for language throughout including some sexual references.

Starring Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, J. Quinton Johnson, Richard Robichaux, Lee Harrington, Cicely Tyson, Kate Easton, Deanna Reed-Foster, Yul Vazquez, Graham Wolfe, Ted Watts Jr.

Written by Richard Linklater and Darryl Ponicsan, based on the novel by Darryl Ponicsan.

Directed by Richard Linklater.



War does things to people. It can bring out the very best and worst soldiers and their families and in worst cases, death. Richard Linklater is a master of exploring the impetus, evolution, bonding and the need for human relationships. His latest film Last Flag Flying is a heart-felt display of the relationships formed through two different wars (Vietnam and Iraq), spanning two generations.

Steve Carrell plays Larry “Doc: Sheperd, a widowed Vietnam war vet who did time in the Portsmouth (New Hampshire) Naval Prison after taking the fall over a wartime drug misuse incident involving his buddies Sal (Bryan Cranston) and Mueller (Lawrence Fishburne). Doc shows up at Sal’s bar in Virginia, asking him to accompany him on a road trip. Sal obliges, and the pair travels to visit Mueller, who is now a Baptist minister. Once together, Doc confides that his own son has been killed in Iraq and heralded as a war here, and that he wants Sal and Mueller to accompany him to Arlington National Cemetery for burial. When they arrive at Dover Air Force base to see the body, Doc learns the truth behind his son’s death, and refuses to allow him to buried at Arlington. He convinces Sal and Mueller to accompany him in a trip back to Portsmouth (her he settled after prison, married and led the life of an exemplary husband and father) to bury his son next to Doc’s wife (passed away a short time earlier from cancer). Also along for the ride is Washington (J. Quinton Johnson), a Marine buddy of Doc’s son. Along the way, the old war pals recount the past, and rekindle their friendship. They also come to terms with the incident that sent Doc to jail, connected to the death of another Vietnam soldier in their platoon. They also learn more about their need for each other, since their rocky bonds is perhaps the only good thing to come from war.

Last Flag Flying succeeds as an examination friendship during and after war, bolstered by three great performances from the Carell, Cranston and Fishburne. Cranston’s Sal goes a little too far at certain points in the film, which seem added for comedic effect, but his skill for exposing hypocrisy is noteworthy. Fishburne is equally resilient as moral directive among the group.

The movie is definitely worth seeing, if only for one heart-wrenching scene in which the trio visits the Mrs. Hightower (Cicely Tyson), the mother of their friend who died a painful death, due to their negligence. It’s enough to rip your heart out, but also gives a true sense of redemption.

There are a lot of speeches about war and politics that many may find a little too preachy, but Last Flag Flying is an appropriate honor for those who have fought, died survived for their country.  

Last Flag Flying Trailer