American films

Last Flag Flying film review: Richard Linklater’s unofficial sequel to war film The Last Detail

Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne star as three former army friends in this nuanced drama, which compares the horrors of the Vietnam war with those of Iraq in a provocative and funny ensemble piece

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 February, 2018, 7:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 February, 2018, 7:02pm

4/5 stars

A nuanced drama which compares the horrors of the Vietnam war with those of Iraq, Last Flag Flying succeeds by shunning the cliched paths that such films usually take. Directed by Richard Linklater, it combines a suspicion of government motives and personal tragedy with patriotism, a love of the military, and feeling that war may sometimes be necessary to protect dearly held values.

The many contradictory, and purposefully muddled, points of view provide a very human perspective, which ensures that the film is more provocative than its downbeat nature suggests. While it’s based on Darryl Ponicsan’s sequel to his military novel The Last Detail – itself made into an influential American film in 1973 by Hal Ashby – Linklater’s film is more tightly controlled than Ashby’s improvisational effort.

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Steve Carell plays Doc, a former navy clerk whose son has been killed on active service in Iraq. Doc hooks up with two buddies from Vietnam – the charmingly obnoxious Sal (Bryan Cranston) and the Reverend Richard Miller (Laurence Fishburne), formerly known as Miller the Mauler for his sexual activities – to attend a full military funeral. But when the trio discover that the authorities have lied about the way the boy died, Doc decides to transport the body home and bury his son himself.

Cranston is riveting as a straight-talking ex-Marine with a hatred of authority, Fishburne is hilarious as a preacher trying to keep his colourful past in check, and Carell plays an uncharacteristically introspective role. Some scenes in Last Flag Flying are very funny indeed.

Last Flag Flying opens on March 1

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