LAST FLAG FLYING
RICHARD LINKLATER | USA | ENGLISH | 2017 | 124 MIN
Richard Linklater’s elegiac road movie stars Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, and Steve Carell as Navy vets who reunite to escort a young soldier’s body up the Eastern seaboard.
From DAZED AND CONFUSED to last year’s EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!, Richard Linklater has given us some of cinema’s most indelible portraits of youth. So it’s a bit of a shock to see how masterfully the American director handles the story of three middle-aged men in LAST FLAG FLYING. Darryl Ponicsan adapted the screenplay from his own novel, a sequel to 1970’s THE LAST DETAIL (which was itself the inspiration for Hal Ashby’s seminal film). This latest outing finds estranged friends Sal (Cranston), Mueller (Fishburne), and Doc (Carell) several decades older than they were when they served together in the Navy, though not necessarily wiser. Sal is still his unbalanced, hard-partying self, while Mueller has given up his rowdy ways to become a man of the cloth. But it’s mild-mannered widower Doc who’s gone through perhaps the most dramatic personal upheaval. It’s 2003, and Doc’s only son has been killed during the early days of the Iraq War. It’s this somber occasion that brings the three compatriots back together when Doc asks Sal and Mueller to help him take his son’s body from Arlington back to his home in New Hampshire. It’s a potentially somber set-up, but Linklater handles the material with a characteristically light touch. While LAST FLAG FLYING has its fair share of tears, it’s a buddy movie at heart, and watching this mismatched trio as they talk and argue their way through the Northeast is a low-key pleasure. Each member of this stacked ensemble does career-best work, though it’s Carell who leaves perhaps the greatest impact as a gentle soul whose grief gives him a steely, furious determination. At once sweeping in its depiction of Bush-era America and intimately personal, LAST FLAG FLYING is a mature, cathartic work from one of this generation’s greatest auteurs.
CAST: Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne, Yul Vazquez
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