Last Flag Flying
Richard Linklater, much like Tarantino, is one of the current American masters of dialogue. He can make any boring setting with any type of characters evolve into a hypnotizing exchange. His last few films (Boyhood, Everybody Wants Some!!!) delved into a philosophical subject, taking on simple storylines. His newest film: Last Flag Flying, brings some more complex characters, but with the same rich conversations.
Last Flag Flying is the story of three veterans. Sal (Bryan Cranston) owns a bar and drinks himself senseless; Richard (Laurence Fishburne) is a happily married pastor; and Doc (Steve Carell) a quiet man who comes to the two former after not seeing them for decades, and asks them to help him bury his son who was killed in Iraq.
The film is not as depressing as it might sound; in fact it earns more laughs from the audience than many emotional moments. Bryan Cranston is the “leader,” shall we say, into this comedic foray. However, while Cranston and even Fishburne had much more dialogue to hurl at each other, it’s Carell that gives the most impactful performance. A sure Oscar shoo-in, Carell once again demonstrates that he is one of the most versatile actors working today, maybe even giving Gary Oldman “the Chameleon” a run for his money. Carell’s silence and his restrained emotions and kind eyes, give his character more depth than any of the others seen on screen.
But this film isn’t without its flaws. While Linklater is able to entertain us with the content of every scene, it’s in the stringing of them together that he stumbles. Linklater had a clear idea of where his beginning and end are, but he struggled to make a coherent middle passage that is so essential to any movie. You frequently found the characters into forced situations that took away from the certain realism that hovers around Linklater’s films. Some parts even began to feel redundant, as Linklater tried to milk more sustenance out of his scenes, making the film feel much longer than it should.
I also had a bit of an issue with Bryan Cranston’s performance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Bryan Cranston’s work, but it seemed that he was trying so hard to shine in this film that his character never comes into fruition and instead we just see Bryan Cranston acting really hard. In contrast with Carell’s gentle performance it seems almost brutish.
But overall, Last Flag Flying is a pleasant viewing. Certainly, ex-military will pick up on many more details than the general audience, but either way Linklater’s dialogue and magnificent performances from Fishburne and Carell work their movie magic.