Last Flag Flying (2017)

  • Time: 124 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama
  • Director: Richard Linklater
  • Cast: Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne


In 2003, 30 years after they served together in the Vietnam War, former Navy Corps medic Richard “Doc” Shepherd re-unites with ex-Marines Sal and Mueller on a different type of mission: to bury Doc’s son, a young Marine killed in the Iraq War. Doc decides to forgo burial at Arlington Cemetery and, with the help of his old buddies, takes the casket on a bittersweet trip up the East Coast to his home in suburban New Hampshire.

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  • Last Flag Flying is my latest review. Its story involves three wartime buddies who served in Vietnam. These marines who have almost nothing in common, reunite after many years to go on a journey. One of them has a son who was killed in Iraq two days ago. They initially travel to Arlington, VA to bury said son.

    “Flag” is directed by innovator and maverick, Richard Linklater. Sadly, it doesn’t feel like it for he should know better. Linklater and co-writer Darryl Ponicsan, fashion a film that is pure miscalculation. Sans a serviceable ending scene and a budding opening scene, Last Flag Flying drags and goes nowhere for over two hours. Frankly, it could’ve managed better had it topped out at eighty minutes or so.

    “Flag” is a decelerated, road trip pic and an excruciating character study all rolled into one. Its box office take was incredibly lousy and I can see why (a worldwide gross of $980, 841). Usually, Richard Linklater can take a bare bones plot and combine it with lots of dialogue-driven fare. With Last Flag Flying, there’s good intentions towards the aspect of veterans but it doesn’t quite work. Every sequence involving Linklater’s actors, laces itself with tedium, sanctum, manipulation, and monotony. Heck, it just goes on and on and on.

    The three personas mentioned in my review’s first paragraph, are Larry “Doc” Shepherd, Sal Nealon, and Richard Mueller. They are played by Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne. The performances here are decent and utilitarian but it feels like everyone forgot to consult a script supervisor. Carell’s “Doc” is muted and you almost forget that he’s even present. Cranston’s Sal is incredibly annoying and rude. Finally, Fishburne’s Mueller constantly whines and preaches (he’s a pastor so whatever). With its globetrotting nature, its lack of formation, and its hindered pompousness, Last Flag Flying is in a word, “unsatisfying”.

    Bottom line: “Flag” only reminds us that Richard Linklater is miles away from equaling the banter and brethren of his early 90’s hit, Dazed and Confused. You could also call Last Flag Flying his semi-failed attempt at re-imagining 1973’s The Last Detail. Rating: 1 and a half stars.

    Rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars

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