Last Flag Flying Review – Touching, Emotional War Buddies Film Delivers Poignant Message

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Last Flag Flying, from Amazon Studios and Lionsgate, brings together three Vietnam Veterans, each pulled from new lives ,who had long buried the war and all its secrets to embark on a final meaningful mission.

Directed by Richard Linklater, Last Flag Flying stars Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, Steve Carell and also stars Yul Yazquez, J. Quinton Johnson, Deanna Reed-Foster, and Cecily Tyson, and was written by Linklater and Darryl Ponicsan based on the novel of the same name by Ponicsan.

Last Flag Flying begins on a rainy night in Virginia in 2003, a long figure carrying a suit bag cuts through the alley ways making his way into an out of the way bar.

An obvious out of place wayfaring stranger sits down on a bar stool listening to the proprietor, Sal Nealon, played by Bryan Cranston, telling bar owner tall tales, smoking a cigar, looking over his bifocals, sipping on whiskey.

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Not to overlook the only other customer he has, he approaches the clean cut, clean shaven, quiet unassuming, man who orders a drink and taking money from an envelope of cash, he pays. Out of nowhere he looks at Sal and asks "You don’t remember me, do you?"

Believing he was being played, the gruff Sal, asks "Should I?" And then after a deeper look into the sad eyes of the stranger, he exclaims, "Doc! Its been thirty years."

Soon, Larry "Doc" Shepherd played by Steve Carell and Sal are reminiscing of days past. Food and plenty of drink later, Doc explains why he is here. His wife recently died and now his son, who joined the Marines was shot and killed defending his platoon. He dies a hero, he is told. He saved many men from death and will be buried at Arlington and he wants Sal to accompany him.

When a ghost from a buried past shows up, especially one who has spent some time in the brig, there are only two roads, absolution or purgatory.

Our Sal, that even through the rough exterior one can see is on the road to absolution agrees to help Doc and finally put an end to the nagging small voice of a day in battle. As they two head down the road, Doc who seems more like a follower begins to led Sal to some address that doesn’t look like Arlington.

The two walk into the church and standing at the pulpit, on this Sunday morning, the Reverend Richard Mueller, known to these as "Mueller" the third in this trip through the jungles of South East Asia.

Soon after the two have convinced the Reverend his presence is necessary on this trip, he still refuses until his lovely wife, Ruth, played by Deana Reed-Foster, explains ever so gently that his duty is to those men and the mission.

So with the trio headed out, the story shifts from a quiet uncomfortable bumpy reentry into a life each though long left behind.

They arrive at Arlington and find Doc’s son is in transport and like all others killed in action his remains are waiting in the hanger and will be transported at the expense and courtesy of the government.

We meet Colonel White, played by Yul Yazquez, a by the book Marine, who explains to all, and especially Sal, who must have been a hell raiser in ‘Nam and it hasn’t left him. Now, today, with that war thirty years in the past, this war, which is claiming good sons and daughters again for a cause unknown, in some God-forsaken desert, he is questioning authority.

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Last Flag Flying is more than three ex-Nam buddies hoping to finally stop hiding behind their lives and put the ghosts and shadows, the war behind them. It is about comrading, the bond of three men who saw the worst times, survived, lived to tell, and now are called into "duty" again.

Of course, with a cast so able to cover such a wide range of emotions and characters one never knowns what one will get and the same is true here. The emotions run from the sorrow of the moment by Carrel to the life of memories past not so far away even from the Sunday pulpit if given a chance for resurrection.

Last Flag Flying is a road trip down memory lane which mixes the old and the new, the unbreakable bond of brotherhood, and the nagging need to do the right thing and realizing in the moment of truth the right thing has been done.

Cicely Tyson also stars as the mother of the fourth man, the one lost, whose memory has refused to leave our two, Sal and the Reverend, and adding her as a stop on the absolution road trip they realize her suave was the story.

Last Flay Flying in genuinely emotional. So many of the scenes, grieving parents mourning over flag draped coffins, trying to comprehend the senseless murder in a place where democracy and the United States is hated; the final burial of Doc’s son, poignantly delivered. Effective and heartfelt.

Last Flag Flying is a patriotic drama. We see our brothers, bond of war buddies, splintered and fractured from war, life, and secrets, band together.

Last Flay Flying opens November 3, 2017. See it. 

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