Last Flag Flying

Academy Award nominees Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne are reunited Vietnam War veterans in this comedy drama from Richard Linklater (Boyhood). A sequel to Hal Ashby's The Last Detail from 1972.

In 2003, 30 years after they served together in the Vietnam War, former Navy Corps medic Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Carell) re-unites with ex-Marine Sal Nealon (Cranston) and Reverend Richard Mueller (Fishburne) on a different type of mission: to bury Doc’s son, a young Marine killed in the Iraq War. Doc decides to forgo burial at Arlington Cemetery and, with the help of his old buddies, takes the casket on a bittersweet trip up the East Coast to his home in suburban New Hampshire. Along the way, Doc, Sal and Mueller reminisce and come to terms with shared memories of the war that continues to shape their lives.

Trailers

Directed by

Comedy, Drama

124mins

Rating: M Mature themes, coarse language and sexual references

USA

Aaron-Yap2

Aaron Yap

flicks

Last Flag Flying is at once burdened and enriched by the past. Richard Linklater’s film sets itself a tall order, attempting to evoke the “spirit” of The Last Detail, Hal Ashby’s gritty jewel of ‘70s American cinema. Not only is The Last Detail among Ashby’s best-loved films, but also a key work in the Vietnam War-disillusioned “New Hollywood” movement and home to one of Jack Nicholson’s most spellbinding performances. It’s like following up Chinatown years later with The Two Jakes: there’s merit in the endeavour but the result generally plays like a faint echo of what once was.

In essence, Last Flag Flying works just fine as a poignant story about a grieving father burying his son. There’s enough pathos here to latch on to, especially for those unfamiliar with its source inspiration. Knowledge of The Last Detail, however, invites a little bit of cognitive dissonance: we see shades of the original characters that deepen the current ones but also distract for the fact that we aren’t technically in the former’s company.

Of the three leads, Bryan Cranston tries too hard to out-perform Nicholson’s Buddusky, while Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne find more measured notes to characterise their quasi-versions of Meadows and Mulhall.

Last Flag Flying might be more likeable a road movie than it is an anti-war statement. There are bittersweet pleasures in watching the camaraderie of these ex-Marines as they reminisce and reconnect. But when it’s time to confront the ethical and moral conundrums of war, the film has a tendency to overstate its themes, something also reflected in the broader, almost farcical detours it takes.

TimeOut (New York)

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It's a major film pitched just above a whisper.

New York Times

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Even if "Last Flag Flying" isn't quite persuasive, it is nonetheless enormously thought-provoking, and its roughness is a sign of how earnestly it grapples with matters that other movies about war prefer not to think about.

Los Angeles Times

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It's a sharp critique of American bluster, but also a sincere and funny valentine to everyday American life.

RogerEbert.com (Brian Tallerico)

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Richard Linklater's intimate drama about three old friends and military funeral gives the A-list trio of Cranston, Carell and Fishburne a chance to shine.

Hollywood Reporter

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The weave of sombre introspection, rueful reminiscence, irreverent comedy and sociopolitical commentary feels effortful, placing the movie among the less memorable entries in Linklater's canon.

Variety (USA)

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The central reason that "Last Flag Flying" fails to take wing is that its characters don't ring true. Not really. You never feel, in your bones, that you're watching battle-scarred veterans.

Vulture

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The movie is so laden it's hard to endure. But worth it.

Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)

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An understated gem and a fabulous showcase for a triumvirate of American acting titans.

Sydney Morning Herald

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Yet another Linklater hangout movie, with minimal plot and maximum room for anti-establishment rhetoric and reflections on the passage of time.