Movie Reviews

Last Flag Flying – A Terrific Ensemble Drama

This has all the right pieces with a great cast and a great writer/director but will it come together?

Synopsis: In 2003, 30 years after they served together in the Vietnam War, former Navy Corps medic Larry “Doc” Shepherd reunites with former Marines Sal and Richard Mueller on a different type of mission: to bury Doc’s son, a young Marine killed in the Iraq War. Doc decides to forgo a 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. Along the way, Doc, Sal and Mueller reminisce and come to terms with shared memories of the war that continues to shape their lives. (VVS Films)

Starring: Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne

Writers: Richard Linklater and Darryl Ponicsan

Director: Richard Linklater

Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)

Running Time: 125mins

Trailer: 

For showtimes and more, check out Last Flag Flying on movietimes.com.

For as long as there have been films, there have been road trip films. While the trailers make it look like a road trip film but it’s much more than that. This film either succeeds or fails based on the relationship between the three leads. In this case, they are the best part of the film by far. The fact that they were very fun to watch together made up for the story lacking some depth in approaching the issues it presents.

The story was about three, over the hill Vietnam war veterans Larry ‘Doc’ Shepherd (Carell), Sal Nealon (Cranston), and Richard Mueller (Fishburne) who reunite after 30 years to help bury Shepherd’s son, a marine killed in the Iraq War. There were some road trip elements, watching the three rekindle their friendship while they reminisced about their time in the war. Their time affected each in different ways but the film could have explored this angle a little more than it did as it only touched the surface.

Shepherd didn’t want to bury his son at Arlington Cemetery, the common destination for most fallen soldiers, but rather near his home in New Hampshire. Not being buried at Arlington was unusual though their conflict with the establishment was also something that the film could have explored a little more than it did. Through this, the three met a young marine who served with Shepherd’s son named Charlie Washington (J. Quinton Johnson). The exchanges between Washington and the other three were fun to watch as we learned how things have changed since they were Marines which of course came with some old people moments.

In order to balance out the film’s darker subject matter, the film introduces some comedy either through Nealon’s lack of a filter or some lighter moments between the three. This worked for the most part but this perhaps came at the expense of the tone and the depth of the subject matter. This wasn’t as much of a negative, however, because the three were so fun to watch together. Although Nealon and Mueller were shallow characters compared to Shepherd, they still served their purpose as the story was more about Shepherd anyway.

As mentioned, the acting was the best part of the film by far because of the performances of the three leads and their great chemistry, especially Carell who provides his best performance here as Shepherd. Most viewers are used to seeing him in comedies so this role will definitely be a departure as a grieving father, providing a subdued yet emotionally powerful performance. Cranston had some funny lines as the no “F” giving Nealon and Fishburne had a slightly more challenging role as the reformed pastor Mueller, balancing his past and his present.

Overall, this was a is a terrific ensemble drama that gets away with a lack of depth story wise thanks to its excellent performances from its three leads including a career best from Steve Carell.

Score: 8.5/10

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