LAST FLAG FLYING is a pretty good film that drags in a couple of spots and goes on a little too long, preventing it from being a great film. The premise is good, and I also liked the fact that the film wasn’t anti-war or pro-war but about honor, doing what you feel is right, and how to cope. Cranston, Carrell, and Fishbourne are still three some of the best actors working today, and they shine in this too, keeping the film watchable even in the parts that drag. And just like Thank You For Your Service, it comes with a message that we really do need to start treating our troops better, maybe even a little more subtle than Service, but still with an emotional impact.
If you haven’t seen any trailers, the film is about three Vietnam vets in 2003 who haven’t seen each other in a long time and one of which (Carrell) just lost a son in Afganistan, and he asked the other two to accompany him to the funeral. The film plays like a somber, but with some humor, road trip film, as the three reminisce about the past, present, future, and the lies and mistakes in between. The conversations in this movie feel a little bit more real than normal. There is no giant speech or confrontation at the end where one gets mad at the other and the other has to make it up to him or apologize. There are some heated arguments, but quick and peaceful resolutions. It felt a little more real than most films dealing with that subject matter and I appreciate the way Director Richard Linklater didn’t try to Hollywood ham it up.
Steve Carrell’s sad yet poignant performance is being treated as an Academy Award contender, and while it is good, I happen to disagree on the contender part (if you want his best performance that got the nomination it deserved see: Foxcatcher). His role is a little more down key than usual, and he doesn’t have that many lines as well, and to me it doesn’t take a lot of effort to sit there and look sad. The moments he speaks are the better parts, and I wish there were more of those. It is Cranston and Fishbourne that steal every scene they are in. Cranston’s character is a wise cracking vet that almost has no filter and Fishbourne is a priest trying to forget his former dark life. When these two have scenes together, and there are many, they both steal the show. Especially when Cranston’s character gets cell phones for all of them for the first time.
The movie is a little over two hours, and I think that if the movie was trimmed by about 15 minutes, it could’ve been much tighter. Some parts seemed really unnecessary and made the film drag at little intervals, although still completely watchable. I appreciated Richard Linklater’s direction here too as he always gets good performances from his actors. In this case, if the performances weren’t there, this film wouldn’t have worked at all. Even though it does drag, the movie certainly sticks the landing very well, and I completely recommend this film to any veterans or active military out there. There is something in it for everyone, even though it is Rated R (just for language to be sure).
So I do recommend Last Flag Flying, even though there is a tighter film that doesn’t drag at all somewhere in there. If I had to describe it, it is a more depressing Plains, Trains, and Automobiles with a good message, but still retaining some of the humor to get it out of it completely being bleak. Good job to all those involved with this film.