Opinion: “Last Flag Flying” (2017)

Richard Linklater is one of the best working directors today. He’s able to make some incredible films and hasn’t made a bad one in recent memory. He’s shown that he’s able to work in a wide range of genres, from comedies and romance films to straight up dramas and even mix those up to form rom-com dramas. In 2016, he brought a lot of charm to the world with a wonderful comedy called Everybody Wants Some!!! And a year later he’d bring out Last Flag Flying, a dark drama mixed with some comedy about a man who reunites with some Nam veterans after his son had passed away and was sent back to the country to get a proper burial.


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In this story of grief and friendship, Linklater did a lot of things right – most things he did right – though I did find that there were some issues. One has to do with the blending of tones. The film’s most certainly not a full-on comedy as the first genre given on IMDb might say, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that there are quite a lot of comedic elements. The majority of the film’s quite dark given the subject material and those humorous scenes are thrown in there to lighten up the mood and give the characters a bit more character, however, those humorous scenes didn’t always mesh nicely with the more serious ones that would follow. There were multiple instances where I found that these comedic scenes took away from the emotional punch the overall scene could’ve had. The bits on their own were great but combined with others they just didn’t work that well. Again, I didn’t mind the humor, it was actually really good. The jokes were delivered brilliantly by the cast, with a standout being Bryan Cranston; they just took away from the impact of some scenes that would follow. This wasn’t the case though with the emotional scenes that mattered the most, like the ending for example, which was handled with great respect.


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What Linklater did right though, was everything he usually does right. The storytelling and characters were my personal standout, but the latter wouldn’t’ve been as good as it is right now if there weren’t any good performances. The film’s in big luck since the performances were fantastic. Each actor did a stellar acting job. Steve Carell and Bryan Cranston both play quite out of character, Carell the more quiet and subdued one and Cranston the loud “I don’t’ give a fuck”-asshole, which he surprisingly made incredibly likable. Cranston’s character had the biggest probability of failing if placed in the hands of another actor, but he brought his own charm to the character and succeeded in making him feel humane. Laurence Fishburne usually isn’t the type of guy to play in a film like this but he was really good too. The film keeps the history of our characters quite hidden for a while and reveals things to us piece by piece, which kept me engaged trying to figure out their past relationship and why Steve Carell’s character decided that he wanted Laurence Fishbourne and Bryan Cranston’s characters to come to his son’s burial.
The characters were very well written and were deeply explored through scenes that consisted out of talking and playing off each other. Those scenes brought up some interesting and relevant topics like religion, race and the military, though I think that some of them could’ve been cut. They all participated in developing characters and establishing their relationship, but to me, it seemed that some of them could’ve been merged together or cut out entirely. Every character had their own way of speaking, which made them feel unique. They were all widely different from each other and that made their conversations the more interesting. The viewpoint of Bryan Cranston’s character, for example, was the polar opposite of the one of Laurence Fishburne, which caused for some hilarious moments, but also some heartfelt and intriguing topics that the film approached from two different angles.


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Also, Linklater’s directing was quite stunning. The film isn’t by any means a visual masterpiece though there were quite a few creative ways Linklater was able to provoke a certain feeling in the viewer. Linklater knows where to place the camera, which lenses to use to portray the character’s inner feelings and when to zoom or not the get the most emotional impact out of the viewer. The soundtrack was used brilliantly to recall sadness, but often enough it served for a comedic purpose as well.


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Last Flag Flying was a very good film, though with its flaws; tones didn’t always mesh well and some scenes could’ve been cut out. Luckily for the film, the good outweighed the bad; there were some fantastic and layered characters portrayed by a wonderful cast, the directing, outside of the tone blending was excellent, and the film succeeded at evoking emotions while not becoming melodramatic.

7 thoughts on “Opinion: “Last Flag Flying” (2017)

  1. Saw this last year and thought it was pretty underrated. What it is really about is the government lying to us and how that has sadly become a timeless issue. As someone who lived through the Vietnam era I found it pretty poignant.

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  2. Very glad to read this. I think it’s on Netflix – at any rate, it’s somewhere where I keep noticing and telling myself I really need to get around to seeing it. You’ve given me an impetus.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure if it’s on Netflix (since it’s an Amazon production). I watched it on Amazon Prime, so maybe you can find it there! Have fun watching!

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      1. Yes you’re right, that’s where I found it. And I really did enjoy it. Maybe not great, but I was left broken-hearted by Carell.

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