Well this is going to be rich. A man known for his comedy, a man known for his drama, and a man known for his red and blue pills sharing a movie. I can think of worst movies to see.
So… apparently, this movie is considered to be a spiritual sequel to the film, THE LAST DETAIL (1973), starring Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid. I have no idea what this movie is. I honestly don’t know what a “spiritual sequel” is, I know what it’s trying to mean, but if you want to make a sequel to something, make a sequel to it. Who cares anymore? Cate Blanchett did it with her two Elizabeth movies, and Judi Dench did it with her two Queen Victoria movies. Well, I guess Nicholson’s retired now, but it’s possible to get a sequel up in the air with different talent behind the wheel. It happens, doesn’t it?
Speaking of which, here’s the talent. Starring, we have Steve Carell (BATTLE OF THE SEXES , EVAN ALMIGHTY , 8 episodes of THE DANA CARVEY SHOW , and upcoming films THE WOMEN OF MARWEN  and BACKSEAT ), Bryan Cranston (POWER RANGERS , LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE , 5 episodes of SEINFELD [1989 – 1998], and upcoming films THE DISASTER ARTIST  and ISLE OF DOGS ), and Laurence Fishburne (JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 , FANTASTIC 4: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER , EVENT HORIZON , A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS , and upcoming films WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE  and ANT-MAN AND THE WASP ).
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is Richard Linklater, known for EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (2016), A SCANNER DARKLY (2006), DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993), and the upcoming WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE. Linklater’s partner-in-pen, who is also the writer of the book this movie is based on, is Darryl Ponicsan, and RANDOM HEARTS (1999). Composing the score is Graham Reynolds, known for BERNIE (2011), A SCANNER DARKLY, and the upcoming WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE. Finally, the cinematographer is Shane F. Kelly, known for EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!, BOYHOOD (2014), A SCANNER DARKLY, and the upcoming WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE.
Overall, I think this could be pretty good. It’s probably going to be emotional with some solid comedy. We shall see.
This is my honest opinion of: LAST FLAG FLYING
Set in 2003. Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell), a former navy medic who served in the Vietnam War, recently lost his only son in the war in Iraq. In his grief, he’s set out to find his old army buddies, the eccentric and fun-loving Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and the former gambler-now-preacher Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) to join him in seeing his son buried in Arlington as they question military life then and now and what it means to each man.
I liked it. I really liked it, actually.
First and foremost, the trio of actors are fantastic. The scene stealers are Cranston and Fishburne. Some of the best scenes in the movie are these two characters duking it out. Sal is basically a dick. But he’s that dick who’s hilarious and kind of awesome. He loved being a Marine back in the day, but injuries kept him out of the service. And Richard was once a hardcore gambler, probably on the same crazy level as Sal, but has since become a man of God and has simmered his temperament. So when he, a devout Christian, starts butting heads with Sal, a die-hard Atheist, the result is incredibly enjoyable. The chemistry between all three actors is amazing to be sure, but Cranston and Fishburne are positively hilarious together. Ultimately, that’s what really carries this movie to the bittersweet end.
On a side note, I’ve mentioned that there is a religious undercurrent going on in the story, conflicting beliefs going on. While I can’t say that I’ve seen a great ton of religious films, a majority of the ones that I’ve seen don’t seem to understand their own ideologies. I find it hilarious that this movie, probably more of a military drama than anything else, has a better understanding of who Christians and Atheists are and how they would really interact with each other.
I think I have only one real complaint about the movie, and honestly, maybe there’s a Marine reading this review and can clarify something for me. In the movie, Doc visits the base where his son is in his closed casket. When he decides that the circumstances of his death weren’t noble, he insists that his son be taken back to his hometown and buried next to his mother in a normal cemetery. However, Lieutenant-Colonel Wilits (Yul Vazquez) seemed unnaturally against the idea. Okay, so it was decided that Doc’s son’s death overseas was reason enough to be honored with burying him in Arlington. Okay, I get it, that’s a big deal. But this LtCol guy seems to think that a Marine is disgraced if that person is buried anywhere other than Arlington. Is… that true. I mean, okay, there’s a lot of context that I didn’t put in here, so maybe it’s best to watch the scene in question, but I don’t think Marines would be this mean-spirited about it. Ultimately, I don’t think Marines get to choose where their men and women are buried if the parents have other ideas or plans. Maybe they can offer a reason why Arlington is such an honored place to be buried, but if minds are made up, they don’t get a voice anymore, morally or legally, no matter how much they agree. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe this is something the Marines can make a fuss over. I’d love to know. But I highly doubt it.
But more fundamentally, I don’t like how this movie kind of shoehorned a “bad guy” in. It’s not necessary. The three men discussing life in the military when they were in the service, and comparing and contrasting to that life today, their religious beliefs, and Doc’s grief over the tragic loss of his son, you’d think all of these things alone would be enough conflict. The clashing of opposing opinions and ideas of these strong-willed and stubborn men, and how they manage to get along with each other, it sort of seemed like it was handled well enough on its own. Why did they need an asshole Marine in the mix? Seemed pretty pointless to me.
In retrospect, these are small problems and aren’t lingered on for too long. They’re just momentary question marks for me in an otherwise very emotional film full of laughs and ideas to make you think. I think it’s worth checking out. I’m not sure if it’s still in theaters, so when it comes out on Blu-Ray, I highly recommend a rental. While I don’t know how actual military personnel would react to this movie, I think it’s effective enough for the common man. The last mission of these men is full of laughs and emotion that will stick with you.
My honest rating for LAST FLAG FLYING: 4/5