Last Flag Flying Makes Its Points Loudly If Not Clearly

From TIME - November 3, 2017

To sink deep into the sound of people talking is one of the great pleasures of a Richard Linklater film. Yet dialogue is the very thing that hobbles Linklaters latest, Last Flag Flying. Scene by scene, the movie explains, rather than reveals, itself. It almost talks itself into a hole it cant quite climb out of.

Steve Carell plays Larry Doc Shepard, a soft-spoken, decidedly unaggressive Vietnam vet who seeks out two of his old war buddiesBryan Cranstons Sal, a feisty, sozzled bar owner, and Laurence Fishburnes Richard, a respectable ministerfor help with a special and particularly painful task. Its 2003, and Docs son, a Marine, has been killed in Baghdad; military brass has told him the young man died heroically in combat. Traveling from his home in Portsmouth, N.H., Doc is headed first to Dover Air Force Base to collect the body, and then to Arlington National Cemetery for the burial. The loss has rattled him so completelyhis wife has also died fairly recentlythat he finds himself seeking the company of these two friends whom he hasnt seen in years. He talks them into accompanying him first to the base and then to the cemetery, where hell lay his son to rest.

But things dont quite work out that way. Doc has a change of heartfor reasons that arent clearand decides to bring his son home to be buried near his mother. He wants Sal and Richard to come along. They resist at first, because this reunion hasnt been easy from the start. Sal wont let the overtly pious Richard forget that his old nickname used to be Mueller the Mauler, a reference to his prowess (or lack thereof) with the ladies in their old days as Marines. Richard is dismayed that Sal, always the first to stir up an argument and usually drunk to boot, doesnt seem to have matured at all. Doc, a Navy man, is stuck in the middle, forced to referee his friends tiffs even in the midst of his grief. Hes certainly the most genial. In the movies finest scene, he reminisces about his first visit to a prostitute, arranged by Sal, who was alarmed that his friend had reached age 18 with his virginity intact. Actually, it wasnt that bad. It was O.K. It was nice, he says, reflecting on the event. He pauses, and elaborates: It was like going to a friends house. Then you have sex with the friend. Then you give them money.


Continue reading at TIME »