Last Flag Flying
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, Steve Carrell, J Quentin Johnson
Following his unapologetic depiction of male friendship in Everybody Wants Some!!, Richard Linklater charts the misadventures of another, older, set of blokes, in this impeccably acted adaptation of Darryl Posnican’s 2005 novel (the book was a sequel to the writer’s The Last Detail, which Hal Ashby adapted into a 1973 film with Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid, so Linklater’s film is a sort of follow-up to that). It begins in 2003 where Sal (Cranston) a brash, impulsive bar owner, is visited by his fellow Vietnam vet Larry ‘Doc’ Shepherd (Carrell), who persuades Sal to join him on a trip to see their old comrade Mueller (Fishburne). Mueller is now a happily married reverend, and is quietly mortified to see his old buddies, a reminder of more dissolute days. There Doc reveals the reason for bringing them together: his son was lost in Iraq and he wants his friends to accompany him to Washington to the burial. A road trip follows in which the straight-laced Mueller is, initially, infuriated by Sal’s irreverent and anarchic behaviour. Linklater, working from a script he wrote with the author, once again proves he’s one of the great humanist directors of our times, in a film that mixes low-key affecting moments with laugh-out -loud humour. The trio deliver a masterclass in acting with Cranston hilarious as loose cannon Sal. Equally impressive is Fishburne, in arguably a less showy part, subtly hinting at the old mischief behind his character’s crotchety sermonising. The depiction of the dilapidated chilly Eastern US environs, coupled with the timeframe, set shortly after another dubious US military foreign incursion, imbues the picture with a real melancholy.