Over the years I have had several people that I can call a true friend. You know, a person that will be there in good times but will be there when you are at your worst. In those moments these friends will pick you up, stand with you, and provide you with the strength to go on when hope seems to have vanished.
Watching “Last Flag Flying,” you see that type of friendship in action. The characters demonstrate this level of closeness not by the words they say but the actions they take to aid their buddy in his time of need.
Thirty years have passed since Larry ‘Doc’ Shepherd (Steve Carell), Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston), and Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) served together in Vietnam. Since that time each has taken different paths in life.
A single event, the death of Shepherd’s son who was killed while serving in Iraq, brings the three back in contact with each other. Shepherd tracks Nealon down at the bar he owns and Mueller at the church he pastors.
Once together Shepherd asks them to come to Arlington National Cemetery to help him bury his son. After hearing the heavy news, the two agree to make the trip. They later are directed to go to Dover Air Force Base to meet the plane that is bringing Shepherd’s son home.
Hearing the account of how his son died, Shepherd decides the best place for his son to rest is next to his mother in New Hampshire. Mueller and Nealon understand the task at hand and take on the burden to ease the pain of their friend.
There is a lot of grit and realness in this movie. It does not feel like something that has been created to make some kind of political opinion like a lot of movies about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. A great example of that is Robert Redford’s “Lions for Lambs.”
Watching it, you see three guys, Larry, Sal, and Richard who have experienced life. They are not afraid to tell you like it is and if it offends you — so what. Get in line or hit the door.
Last Flag Flying is about the friendship these three men have and the bond between them.
One moment that shows this bond is after Shepherd decides to take his son home.
Mueller remarks to Sal, “I thought that we were going to a funeral?” Nealon responds stating, “We are going to a funeral. Just looks like it’s going to take a little longer to get there.”
They share several lighthearted moments from their time in the service, which shows what brought them together. Those moments also demonstrate how those times shaped them into the person they are today.
The second theme of this film is healing. Shepard is struggling with the lingering questions about his son’s death, his life, and how he was as a father. Nealon and Mueller help Shepard in those moments. At on point, Nealon tells Shepard to find strength in his son’s life and not his death. He states that “You put this (letter) somewhere and you let it remind you what was in your son’s heart.”
The healing is not only for Shepard but also for the entire group during the trip. As they get to know each other again, they confront the past and the actions they took while in the military. Those moments showed that sometimes the past is not easy to look at but it has to be confronted in order to grow as a person. In those scenes, you could see the internal struggle going on to face the past. Nealon, Mueller, and Shepard also call each other out on their shortcomings.
While the war in Iraq is the backdrop for this movie, it is not what defines it. To call this film a "war picture" is a disservice. It is much more than that.
The main drawback to “Last Flag Flying” is that it is a limited release. Only two locations are playing the film locally. The first is at the Magnolia Theater located at 3699 McKinney Ave. in Dallas. The second theater is AMC North Park 15 located at 8687 N. Central Expressway Suite 3000 in Dallas.
While the film is only showing in Dallas, it is worth the drive. Audiences will be well rewarded with a moving story.
I give “Last Flag Flying” five out of five mustaches.
This movie is rated R for language throughout including some sexual references and runs 124 minutes.