Everybody Wants Some!! (2016), Boyhood (2014), School of Rock (2003) and Dazed and Confused (1993 – all critically acclaimed movies by director Richard Linklater. With the exception of Boyhood, Linklater relies heavily on comedy to help tell his stories and that strategy has been very successful thus far. Now he’s working with arguably his most talented cast yet as he delivers a heartfelt drama mixed with some well placed humor in Last Flag Flying.
Larry ‘Doc’ Shepherd (Steve Carell) is on a mission of the heart and soul and he also knows that he can’t go it alone. He reconnects with a couple of acquaintances from his military days to enlist their assistance in a very delicate matter. Even though he has not seen Sal (Bryan Cranston) or Richard (Laurence Fishburne) in decades, the pair agree to accompany him on this journey, but not without some major convincing. Larry has just found out that his son was killed in combat as a US Marine and now that his body is stateside, Larry needs to make arrangements for his burial. During this endeavor, the trio must reconcile with actions of their past before they can set the future on its proper course. Larry, Sal and Richard all learn valuable lessons along the way as they each realize that they need one another.
With Carrell, Cranston and Fishburne sharing the screen together, you can assume that the acting will be solid. You can also bet your bottom dollar that there will be a decent portion of comedy. Last Flag Flying provides a well-balanced mix of serious subject matter but also breaks that up with well placed comedy. The actors have three totally different personalities but they each fit into what the other two are lacking. And as a complete whole, these three will feed off of one another in a way that will make audiences love, laugh and cry. This is a heartbreaking story of a father having to bury his son while trying to make sense of what has happened.
Richard Linklater works well within the confines of this story, utilizing each actors’ natural strong points. Steve Carell is smallest personality in the room and plays his part with silly comedy and a naivety that only a few could pull off. Bryan Cranston, on the other hand, is lewd, loud and often crude thanks to his bluntness. Laurence Fishburne is the one that exudes confidence, compassion and knowledge. There are so many emotions going on here that it’s hard to get settled in on any one emotional tone. Last Flag Flying is ever-changing in that respect, which will keep audiences off balance as to what to expect.
The story of Last Flag Flying is one of friendship, perseverance and faith. It’s hard to call it a feel good movie simply because the main plotline is a morbid one. Still, you will feel a sense of uplifting joy as things play out. This is a well acted, and well directed drama that has just enough comedy in it to keep you from being completely down in the dumps. While some parts of the movie get political, it isn’t enough to offend either side to the point of not liking this movie. With the political tension in the world and ongoing drama about our military, these are challenging times to make a movie that touches on certain hot button topics. Thankfully, Last Flag Flying keeps the focus wear it needs to be, and that’s on these individuals in this movie. Catch it in theaters now.