By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
“Last Flag Flying”
is a heart-warming and humorous military drama directed and co-written by Richard Linklater (“Boyhood” and TV’s “School of Rock”). It’s based on Darryl Ponicsan’s 2005 novel of the same name.
The movie features outstanding performances from Bryan Cranston (TV’s “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” and “Curb your Enthusiasm”), Laurence Fishburne (TV’s “Black-ish”) and Steve Carell (“Battle of the Sexes”).
Carell plays Larry "Doc" Shepherd, a dishonorably discharged Vietnam Vet turned Navy clerk who is mourning the death of his Marine son killed in Iraq. On top of that, Larry’s wife recently died from breast cancer. With no one around now, Larry sinks deeper into depression especially when he gets the call to pick up his son’s body for burial.
Larry decides to look up two of his long-lost friends that he fought with in Vietnam. He heads to Norfolk, Virginia and finds Sal Nealon (Cranston) running a small bar.
Sal, is as brash and cocky as ever and doesn’t recognize Larry at first until they strike up a conversation. They trade stories of the old days and soon Larry convinces Sal to take a short ride with him to see someone else. It’s Richard Mueller, their old friend. He’s a Baptist preacher, living in Pennsylvania with his lovely wife Ruth (Deanna Reed-Foster, TV’s “Chicago P.D.”). Richard is a far cry from the “Mueller the Mauler” guy they once knew.
Naturally, Sal playfully shames Richard into taking the road trip with them to Dover Air Force Base to help pick up the coffin and head to Arlington National Cemetery.
Reluctantly, Richard agrees, but kind of regrets it after the trip turns out much longer than he anticipated and literally takes some surprising turns.
They meet Larry’s son’s best friend, Lance Cpl. Charlie Washington (a terrific J. Quinton Johnson, “Dirty Dancing” and TV’s “The Son”) who shares some shattering and new information about his friend’s death. The news angers Larry so much, that he insists on taking his son back home to New Hampshire.
Another set of circumstances come into play. One involves a dynamic scene with the legendary Cicely Tyson (TV’s “How to Get Away with Murder”). That, along with a surprise letter, ultimately brings an emotional and satisfying closure for Larry as well as Sal and Richard.
“Last Flag Flying” avoids mawkishness and masterfully builds on its perfectly balanced blend of patriotism, comedy, drama and stirring dialogue delivered by a stellar cast.
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Watch This Trailer For "LAST FLAG FLYING"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Reel Awards Voting Academy and a Nominating Committee Voting Member.