Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston, three old buddies reunited after thirty years on a journey to a funeral. It reminded me of a film from the early 1970s called The Last Detail, a film of two military policemen taking a young sailor to the brig. The two films don’t share much in common (although the novels the films were based on were written by the same author) except the military theme and being a journey of discovery. Last Flag Flying is more of a film for the Metamucil crowd.
Without giving away too much of the plot, the film reunites three Vietnam vets thirty years later to accompany a fallen soldier to his place of burial. The film takes place in 2003 during the War in Iraq. There are of course many parallels between Vietnam era politics and the post 911 invasion of Iraq.
In the film, these guys haven’t seen each other since their service and there is a mystery between them as the Carell character ended up in a military prison serving time for something that happened over there. The event is not revealed until later in the film when they have to resolve not only what they did with reconciling when to push for the unvarnished truth and when to accept a revised version to protect other’s memories.
The three old friends mesh well even though their post-war lives have taken different directions. Carell has the lesser role even though he’s at the center of the film. He is the grieving parent and who paid the price for something bad that happened in Vietnam. The fun is in the interplay between Fishburne and Cranston, the preacher and the sinner.
Cranston is firing on all pistons and it is really his film for everyone to play off of his character. If this was a recon patrol his role is to take the point and lead his buddies on their mission. Fishburne’s character is most changed, he represents the one who has found peace and atoned for his sins of the past. Cranston appears to have changed the least, still angry and refusing to yield to the passing of time. Carell accepted his fate and found a very satisfying life, until he lost both his wife and son.
Written and directed by Richard Linklater, based on a book by Darryl Ponicsan, the film digs only deep enough to balance a message of duty and government untruthfulness, grieving, with being an entertaining journey. These characters are easy to like, there is nothing too revealing or unappealing about them or their in country experiences. This is one of Richard Linklater’s most accessible films.
This film will not be seen by a lot of people which is too bad. It is hard to find and won’t be in the theaters very long. While it might not resonate for a lasting time, you will enjoy riding along on the journey.