As we go through life, along the way we pick up people who we are lucky enough to call our friends. We meet these people through school and work and even though you may move on, these are friends you take with you through the rest of your life. They will not ask you what you need when you ask them for help, instead they will drop what they are doing for you. I have been lucky enough to find friends like this and I hope all of you reading this can say the same. In Richard Linklater’s latest “Last Flag Flying” we see how much friends like that mean.
Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell) has just received the news no parent wants to hear. Shepherd, who served in Vietnam just, lost his only son to the war in Iraq. Having been told where he can meet the body when it comes home, Shepherd heads to find the ones he needs the most. Sal (Bryan Cranston) owns a bar and many would say has not made much of his life. While that may be true, Shepherd shows up at his bar asking him to give him a ride somewhere without giving much detail. Along the way Doc tells him to make a stop at a church where they find another old friend in Richard Mueller (Lawrence Fishburne), who is a reverend now. It is at Reverend Mueller’s house that Doc tells them the story of his only son being lost. After the conversation comes the request that Doc wants them both to come with him, a request that while Sal is onboard, Mueller needs a little push from his wife. Once they arrive to the location they find out the truth in how he died and Doc decides he wants to take his son home with him so that he can burry him there. What begins as a request turns into a road trip where three friends reconnect and a father gets the closure he needs.
Linklater who has been one of the better filmmakers of the last twenty plus years doesn’t let you down here. While “Last Flag Flying” is not at all perfect it has a lot more going for it than against it. The strongest points by far are the performances, which lead by Cranston are all pretty superb. Linklater likes simple, and this story about the cost of war and the relationships they build is simply good. Where the film falters some is in its length, you feel like minus fifteen minutes and there might have been a better movie in there. Sometimes though trimming the fat can be tough as maybe Linklater felt they had more to say by the end. The film packs a good emotional ride as you experience the highs of friendship and the low of loss in the span of two hours. The greatest thing about Linklater is that he never allows himself to be put in a box on what kind of stories he tells. While they vary in tone and genre, the one thing you can always count on is simply a good movie.