Facebook Twitter

LAST FLAG FLYING: 2 ½ STARS. “a talky affair about the passing of time.”

Director Richard Linklater makes films that are more interested in presenting slices of life than delving deep into story. Beautiful romantic character studies like “Before Sunrise,” or coming-of-age stories like “Boyhood” or nostalgic throwbacks like “Everybody Wants Some,” get under the skins of the people who populate them, making us care about them not just their stories. His latest, “Last Flag Flying,” fits into this mould but doesn’t have the sense of connection that makes the other films feel so memorable.

The year is 2003. Former Marine Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) is a Virginia bar owner with a metal plate in his head and a motor mouth. When his old Vietnam buddy Larry ‘Doc’ Shepherd (Steve Carell) shows up at the bar the two haven’t seen one another for decades, since Doc earned a Bad Conduct Discharge and was thrown into the brig for two years.

Turns out Doc isn’t just making a social call. He’s there to put the gang back together, including former badass Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), now a God fearing preacher who prefers to be called Reverend Richard. He’s leaning on his old friends in a time of grief. He would like his old buddies to accompany him to his son’s funeral. Larry was told the young man died a hero in Bagdad and will be buried with full honours at Arlington but when they arrive to view the body the father discovers a different story. It’s then he makes a profound decision. “I’m not going to bury a marine,” he says, “I’m just going to bury my son.” The old friends take the body and embark on a forlorn road trip back to Larry’s New Hampshire home for a civilian funeral.

“Last Flag Flying” is a talky affair about the passing of time, loss and disillusionment that glows with occasional moments of aching poignancy but too often feels adrift. Gifted as the leads are, they never truly bring Sal, Larry and Mueller off the page. Each man is a walking cliché, almost crushed by the weight of the heavy-handed and often overwritten script. Sombre and sentimental, it is, unlike Linklater’s other films, also largely forgettable.

Comments are closed.