Thursday 13 July 2023

Movie Review: Last Flag Flying (2017)

Genre: Dramedy
Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston
Running Time: 124 minutes

Synopsis: It's 2003, and Larry "Doc" Shepherd (Steve Carell) has just lost his enlisted son, killed in action in the Iraq War. To help with burial arrangements, Larry seeks out two men he served with in Vietnam: hard-drinking Sal (Bryan Cranston) now runs a grubby bar, while Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) is a happily-married reverend. The three men reconnect on a road trip filled with memories, conflicts, humour, and revelations.

What Works Well: An initially simple trip that takes unexpected turns in pursuit of male bonding, the adaptation of Darryl Poniscan's book carries similarities to the author's The Last Detail. Director Richard Linklater celebrates friendship forged in the hell of war and honors the men as damaged servants to suspect causes. Doc (endured a stint in prison), Sal (enslaved to alcohol), and Mueller (saved by religion) all found different escapes from battlefield demons, and their reunion is an often eloquent opportunity to re-examine and question long-ago decisions. 

What Does Not Work As Well: This is a two hour talkfest among the same three characters, and the script (by Linklater and Poniscan) often lacks discipline. Many of the dialogue exchanges offer only padding, with the profanity-fueled diatribes of Bryan Cranston's Sal allowed to dominate. In contrast Steve Carell's introverted Doc is ignored for long stretches despite being the trip's architect. Linklater aims for a narrow landing strip between saluting soldiers and castigating warmongers, resulting in a wobbly final act.

Conclusion: A meandering veterans' journey in the shadows of regret.

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