Last Flag Flying
4/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Richard Linklater
prd Ginger Sledge, John Sloss
scr Richard Linklater, Darryl Ponicsan
with Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, J Quinton Johnson, Yul Vazquez, Cicely Tyson, Deanna Reed-Foster, Graham Wolfe, Jeff Monahan, Kate Easton, Ted Watts, Lee Harrington
release US 3.Nov.17, UK 26.Jan.18
17/US Amazon 2h04
Last Flag Flying
Catching up: Fishburne, Carell and Cranston

carell cranston fishburne
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Last Flag Flying Richard Linklater pays his respects to The Last Detail in a funny and sensitive road movie that hits the emotions without forcing them. It's neither a sequel nor remake to Hal Ashby's 1973 classic, but there are loud echoes. As the central trio, Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne create vivid characters, middle-aged war veterans who have something important to say about patriotism and what it means to be a hero.

Since serving as a marine in Vietnam, Norfolk barman Sal (Cranston) has used alcohol to dull the memories. Then old military pal Doc (Carell) turns up, and they head to Richmond to find Mueller (Fishburne), now a pastor. Doc needs his friends to help collect the body of his son, killed in action in Iraq, for burial. Over the next few days as they travel to Washington and on to Doc's New Hampshire hometown, these three men are forced to confront their past, as well as the present state of the country they fought for.

Accompanying them is a young marine (Johnson) who was present when Doc's son was killed, and he provides the first moment of truth when he contradicts the official story that's been given to Doc. Linklater and cowriter-novelist Ponicsan carefully ground every scene in real-life emotions that resonate strongly, from continual riotous laughter to darkly moving grief. It's the kind of film that quickly drags the audience in with sparky characters then holds us there with it's provocatively deepening themes.

At the centre, Carell gives a staggering performance as an average guy who has been through some astonishingly tough personal events over the years. He's understated and likeable, funny and compelling. And he's a striking contrast to Cranston's brash scene-stealer and Fishburne's caring but somewhat pompous preacher. The balance between them is tricky, and it grows as they rediscover the old rhythms from their younger days, filtered through their very different stories before and after their service together in Vietnam.

As with most of Linklater's films, the direction and editing feel effortless, sharply tracing events that feel organic and unforced. Along the way, the film elicits huge reactions, sometimes both laughter and tears at the same time, simply because these people are so easy to identify with. And accompanying the story is a quietly moving exploration of loyalty, smashing any illusion of rah-rag heroics to find a more complex truth.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 7.Oct.17 lff

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall