Last Flag Flying Movie Review
Richard Linklater. The very mention of his name gets some people--primarily critics--aroused. It’s an odd phenomenon, given that the writer/director is best known for understated character films, and in reality the vast majority of people don’t know his body of work aside from Dazed and Confused and School of Rock. Oh, and some boring piece-of-shit movie called Boyhood.
The thing is: Linklater is a pretty damn good filmmaker when he tries (yes, yes, the Before trilogy may be the greatest trilogy of all time, but it’s the greatest trilogy that literally no one has heard of).
Last Flag Flying is what it looks like when Linklater half-tries. Well acted and well written, the drama is a generally enjoyable affair, even if it suffers from a steady case of understatement overload. Linklater doesn’t even try to impress on the filmmaking side or even offer any kind of emotional fluctuation that would give the story, about a grieving father who recruits two of his old army buddies to go on a road trip, some sense of variation or sense of true momentum.
And yet the movie still works.
The screenplay is well written if dramatically monotone, but the performances, or at least the chemistry, of Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne, elevate the material. As a result, Last Flag Flying is generally pretty entertaining and rewarding. The three actors play off each other well. I’m not certain that Carell will ever win me over as a serious actor, though he does an admirable job here. On the other hand, Cranston is especially good. Fishburne is somewhere in the middle.
Last Flag Flying is a likable movie that, in true Linklater fashion, brings to life three believable, interesting characters. But due to Linklater’s disinterest in doing anything more than that, the movie never reaches the heights of many of his other, more decorated films, nor is it worth getting hard over.
But even a just-okay Linklater movie is satisfactory, and Last Flag Flying is satisfactory. And of course, it’s a lot better than Boyhood.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.