Last Flag Flying, directed by Richard Linklater, blends humor with the drama brought forth by war. Linklater and Darryl Ponicsan wrote the script, and the film is based on an eponymous novel written by the latter.


Perhaps the biggest strength awarded to the film is its cast. Steve Carell plays Larry “Doc” Shepherd, a grieving father who recruits his former Marine buddies to help him bury his son, Larry. Bryan Cranston plays Sal Nealon, an alcoholic with a brash temperament. Sal’s expletives are balanced out by Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), who discovered Christianity after his term in the Vietnam war. All three are still haunted by their time in the service, having spent the last 30 years coping with their burdens in their own ways to varying degrees of success.

All three actors’ performances are excellent, and seeing them bounce off each other is a treat. Sal and Mueller almost foil each other in a yin and yang manner thanks to their respective rambunctious and reserved demeanors. Meanwhile, Carell’s performance as Doc delivers a nuanced delivery, balancing the character’s joy at reuniting with his old friends and his mourning of his son’s death.

Upon meeting with the Lieutenant (Yul Vazquez), Doc insists on seeing his son’s body, being informed that he died honorably while fighting for his country. Sal and Mueller, however, chat with Charlie Washington (J. Quinton Johnson), one of Larry’s friends who served alongside him, who confessed to them the true story of how Larry died, upon which the two older men argue as to whether or not they should tell Doc the truth. Whereas Mueller believes Doc should “have his hero,” Sal – who ultimately wins this debate – believes the truth is what’s important. As their road trip progresses, the three men begin opening up, eventually admitting their shared trauma concerning their deceased comrade Jimmy. Unfortunately, the film’s ending, although resonate, does offer conflicting emotions regarding the film’s political undertones.

Last Flag Flying’s Blu-ray offers a few bonus features. The 15.49-minute “An Unexpected Journey: Making Last Flag Flying” feature showcases many of the film’s cast members discussing the creation of the film, often discussing what about the movie resonated with them. A short Veterans Day featurette adorns the lineup too, though it partially overlaps with some of the content in “An Unexpected Journey.” Finally, a few deleted scenes and bloopers round out the bonuses.

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