Could ‘Last Flag Flying’ Be Your New Favourite Linklater Movie?

Last Flag Flying is my new favourite Richard Linklater movie. The film finds Steve Carell’s Larry “Doc” Shepherd as he reunites his old Vietnam War buddies. There’s lovable rogue Sal Neaton (Bryan Cranston) and the reformed Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne). It is revealed that Doc has sought the men to help say goodbye to his son who has died in the Iraq War. As he comes to the decision to bury his son in his home town without the assistance of the US military, the film becomes a road trip.

Vietnam exists in the film as a shared dream. The past that is the only thing the three have in common. There are no flashback sequences, instead the mysteries of their shared history unfolds through reminiscence: secret shames that they are forced to explore in their journey. The story telling is fabulously effective.

The cast work beautifully together. Steve Carell is the heartbroken man who is struggling to come to terms with the meaning behind his son’s death. He is also clearly a good-humoured man with a sweet nature that brings out the protective instincts of his friends. Bryan Cranston plays the opinionated talker of the group, who frequently irritates the others but clearly has a tremendous amount of affection for them. This character is the only one of the three to occasionally feel clichéd, but it is not in any way due to Cranston’s charismatic performance. He is also a tragic figure who talks to cover his shame.

My favourite character of the film was played by Laurence Fishburne, in perhaps his finest role. Reverend Mueller is a man who turned his back on hedonism to become a man of God. He frequently butts heads with the atheistic Sal, but just behind his serene acceptance is still the hot-headedness of his youth. Fishburne’s performance is understated, sweet and hilarious. The care he shows for the group is beautiful.

I found myself in tears at several points during the film. Admittedly this was sometimes from laughter, but the film has a very natural sentimentality. It’s an intelligent dark comedy that uses it’s three lovable main characters to explore some very important topics. I found myself fully invested in their journey and dying to find out what they would do next.

5 / 5

Paul Salt is the co-host of One Good Thing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *