The first thing that jumped out at me regarding filmmaker Richard Linklater’s latest effort, Last Flag Flying, was its low key approach to the material. It reminded me of some of the better films made during that highly regarded period of filmmaking at the early part of the 1970s. There’s a good reason for this, being that it’s an unofficial sequel to one of the most highly regarded films made during that period, The Last Detail. Its rhythms are similar to its earlier counterpart. And though it isn’t likely to replace memories of the original film, it’s a worthy successor to a film that’s still held in very high regard.

The plot of the original film revolved around two Navy officers who are tasked with bringing a fellow officer to prison after he commits a minor offense and then decide to show the young officer a good time before they drop him off at their destination. The plot of Last Flag Flying revolves around a reunion of the trio that takes place under less than desirable circumstances.

Doc (Steve Carrell), the young Naval officer who was sent to prison in the first film, reconnects with Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston), one of the two men assigned with taking him to prison thirty years prior to the events of this film. The two seek out Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), the last remaining link in the chain who now makes his living as a pastor of a small town church.

Doc is dealing with a double whammy, his wife died a while back and his son was killed while serving, like his father, in the military. Nealon and Mueller agree to assist Doc with picking up his son’s body. The three men soon discover a cover up regarding the circumstances of the boy’s death. They then decide to take matters into their own hands, transporting the body in a U Haul in order to give him a hometown burial and it’s at this point that the film veers off into classic road movie territory as the men’s personalities slowly reveal themselves.

Linklater keeps the political stuff to a minimum and instead chooses to focus on the camaraderie of the three men and their execution of the task at hand. It’s a joy to watch these pros giving it their all even if the more incendiary subtext of the material is kept on the back burner, no pun intended.

 At press time, Last Flag Flying is not yet playing in this area.

Image: Fishburne, Cranston & Carrell in ‘Flag’

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