As with many of Richard Linklater’s films, Last Flag Flying would be hard not to like. I’d even go so far as to say that this broadly appealing film might even have the potential to help heal our country with its deft approach to a story about young Americans dying in foreign wars. The film doesn’t exactly endorse such losses of life, but doesn’t make the mistake of condemning them, either. By sidestepping more overtly polarized political issues, Linklater casts a light on all the human aspects of his tale, with which almost everyone will be able to empathize.
Doc (Steve Carell) has lost both his wife and — more recently — his son, a marine killed in action in Iraq. Gentle and soft spoken, Doc is set to make a quiet pilgrimage to bury that son. However, he first visits an old friend from his Vietnam War days, Sal (Bryan Cranston), who doesn’t really do quiet. Doc pulls Sal into a mysterious road trip that leads them to yet another long-lost war buddy, Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne). Soon, both men have firmly become a part of Doc’s journey to bring his boy home.
Despite the fact that Last Flag Flying does not resort to the kind of histrionics that audiences might expect from such a tale of loss and heroism, this film has Oscar potential written all over it — especially for Cranston, whose fast-talking and irreverent wisecracking light up the screen (nicely counterpointed by Fishburne’s grumpy reactions). It’s refreshing to see such a weighty topic treated with both reasonable humor and salt-of-the-earth decency. The film never feels preachy, but achieves a level of thoughtfulness that offers a message about humanity that truly matters. THE WORD: A film worthy of saluting. COMING TO: Theaters
Last modified: November 13, 2017