In Hollywood’s era of rampant sequelizing, has any filmmaker more playfully bucked the more-of-the-same monotony than Richard Linklater, with his Oscar-nominated “Boyhood,” his “Before” trilogy (re-teaming Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) and his “Everybody Wants Some!!”?
But Linklater’s “Last Flag Flying” is a sort of follow-up to Hal Ashby’s great 1973 film “The Last Detail,” in which two petty officers (played by Otis Young and Jack Nicholson) transport a naive 18-year-old soldier (Randy Quaid) from Norfolk, Virginia, to a brig in New Hampshire, where he has been sentenced to serve eight years for attempting to steal $40 from a charity box.
Ashby’s film was glorious in its fiery expletives (courtesy of screenwriter Robert Towne) and seething in its outrage.
“Last Flag Flying” is travels the same highway, but the central trio of characters are well into middle age and their reason for a reunion is more melancholy. Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell, playing a version of the Quaid character) has gathered two Vietnam war buddies — anti-authoritarian rabble-rouser Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and the Rev. Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) — to bury his son, a Marine killed in Iraq.
The source material comes from author Darryl Ponicsan’s 2003 novel, a sequel to his 1970 book “The Last Detail” — the one Ashby and Towne adapted for their film. But Linklater has changed the characters’ names and slightly altered their backgrounds while maintaining much of the connective tissue from the 1970 book.
Though the film’s gentle humanism is indeed its own, “The Last Detail” stands like an unnamed island around which the movie flows.
The balance of the acting trio is slightly off, however. Cranston, a gifted performer, is portraying a funny live-wire, while Nicholson was the real thing. Carell gives a performance that feels hollowed out by his character’s grief and sense of solemnity. Fishburne alone feels as if he’s in the right film.
Though lacking the edge of Towne’s dialogue, “Last Flag Flying” is a deeply contemplative film about how so much changes while so much stays the same. It might take place 30 years later, but time hasn’t altered the injustice of the foot soldiers fighting in ill-conceived wars.
When the guys arrive in Washington to see the body of Doc’s son, a hardline Marine colonel (Yul Vazquez) disapproves of Doc’s decision to bury the young man at home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, instead of Arlington National Cemetery.
Some scenes pulsate with anti-war passion. But the film …
Source:: East Bay – Entertainment