The true cost of war goes beyond the numbers of the dead and wounded that we see in textbooks, lectures, and in news reports. Each number represents a person who either perished or was injured. We overlook the extended impact that this loss of life or experience has on their families and friends. Even more, we often overlook the lasting impact that warfare has on the men and women exposed to it.
In Last Flag Flying Steve Carell (The Office, 40-Year-Old Virgin), Brian Cranston (Breaking Bad), and Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) play veterans who reunite thirty years after serving together in Vietnam to bury one of their sons who has been killed in Iraq. Doc (Steve Carell) tracks down his friends in order to find some closure as to events they faced in their past and to find some sanity and clarity in the death of his son.
The film brings home the horror of war and demonstrates how men and women, out of a sense of duty, find themselves in the same situation as previous generations as they left home to serve their nation. The film is uncomfortable, with good reason, as it makes audiences reflect on the meaning of sacrifice, duty, and honor. The three characters offer the film the opportunity to demonstrate the contrast between youth and experience. It demonstrates how people can have the same experiences but are changed by it to varying degrees. Nothing is uniform about how they adapt to their experiences or in how they cope with the horrors they witnessed.
Last Flag Flying offers a much-needed, sobering perspective about war and how the experiences of war never quite leave those who survived. Carell, Cranston, and Fishburne offer up performances that demonstrate the power of friendship and brotherhood that forms for those who serve together. For those who served and those who haven’t, the film offers audiences the ability to gain a greater understanding of what life is like for those men and women once they take off the uniform.
By Sasha Glenn
“Last Flag Flying” is not likely to be a blockbuster at the box office. It doesn’t shock or amaze, but it does make the audience laugh at the little moments of humor in life and feel for the melancholy ones. This is a film about perspective and experience. The perspectives of three men who served in the Vietnam war and were changed forever by that experience.
The acting is very real and enjoyable Laurence Fishburne plays Richard Mueller, a now reformed preacher. Fishburne’s character balances out the darkness exhibited by Bryan Cranston as Sal Nealon, a crass, mostly inebriated, bitter, but enjoyable man. Sal is a man who is forever scarred by the time he served. He now wallows in alcohol to escape his daily pain and makes as many things as possible into a joke to mask the sadness.
As expected, Cranston, who is known for his outstanding performance in his roles in “Breaking Bad” and “Malcom in the Middle,” delivers an impeccable and authentic portrayal of his character once more.
The third man, and perhaps main focus of the film, is “Doc” Shepherd, played by Steve Carell. Carell isn’t quite as authentic in his serious role as Cranston, but that’s to be expected considering his talents mostly lie within the comedy genre. His character is awkward and almost seemingly innocent in an enjoyable way.
The plot centers around the reuniting of the three men to bury Doc’s son who has been killed while serving. Their journey is touching. The combination of humor at the right moments makes this a very enjoyable film. It isn’t necessarily one to see in theaters, but it’s definitely worth watching at home.
I give “Last Flag Flying” 4 out of 5 stars.