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Last Flag Flying


Stars: Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, J Quinton Johnson, Deanna Reed-Foster, Cicely Tyson, Yul Vazquez

Director: Richard Linklater

It's December 2003, and a man walks into a bar... He's Larry 'Doc' Shepherd (Carell), who's come to see bar owner Sal (Cranston), with whom he served in Vietnam. Together, they go to see their other buddy, Mueller (Fishburne), now a gospel preacher.

Turns out that Doc lost his wife to breast cancer earlier in the year and has just learned that his only son has been killed in Iraq. He has to go to Delaware to accompany his son's body to its burial place, and wants his two ex-comrades to go with him - in spite of a checkered past in which Larry took the fall for one of their escapades, ending up with a spell in the brig and a bad conduct discharge,

When the trio reaches their destination, there's a standoff between the military (Johnson, Vazquez), who insist the dead Marine must be buried in Arlington Cemetery, and Doc, who's determined, perhaps unreasonably, to bury the boy next to his dead wife at home in New Hampshire.

The result is kind of a road trip which forms the heart of a patchy entertainment, whose, raunchy, rowdy interludes between the three men are great fun. On other, more serious occasions, the film skirts boredom and dullness with some uncertainty.

All three main actors are good, but Cranston's roistering character, who has a 'scrambled brain' held together by a steel plate, has the best lines as they reflect on how anno domini has caught up with them. 'I used to have a Johnson,' roars Sal, 'that could watch me shave. Now it watches me try to pull my socks on.'

David Quinlan

USA 2017. UK Distributor: Curzon Artificial Eye. Colour by FotoKem.
125 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 20 Jan 2018