Ghost of battles past laid to rest in emotional road trip
THREE Vietnam veterans, reunited after 30 years by the death of one of their sons travel across the county to bury him.
Old wounds reopen en route, but a few ghosts are also laid to rest.
The broad outline of this well-travelled movie road trip is sure to sound familiar, but what differs here is the telling.
Richard Linklater is an exceptionally relaxed spinner of yarns.
And the cast he has assembled for his film adaptation of Darryl Ponicsan’s 2005 novel relishes the throttled-back pace.
The experience is just as satisfying for moviegoers, who can feel just how much fuel these actors have in reserve.
Hot on the heels of his scene-stealing vocal performance in Isle Of Dogs, Bryan Cranston chews over the role of Sal Nealon as if it were an expensive cigar.
Gruff, combative, exasperating, but with a deceptively large heart, Sal owns a down-at-heel bar, primarily to pour his own beers. After Vietnam, Laurence Fishburne’s one-time, hard-ass Richard Mueller found God and a good woman and redirected his fiery temperament into the role of preacher.
Even before they hit the road, it’s clear that these two former marines are likely to bait each other until at least one of them draws blood.
Carell has perhaps the most difficult role as the quietly spoken, almost meek Larry “Doc” Shepherd.
The former naval hospital corpsman contacts his battlefield companions when his only son is killed in Iraq.
Initially, a hero’s burial is planned for the young marine at Arlington National Cemetery.
But when Doc learns the truth behind his son’s death, he decides to bring him back home to suburban New Hampshire instead.
Accompanying the three ageing veterans on the train trip is Washington (J. Quinton Johnson), the marine who escorted the coffin back from Iraq, and who intends to see his mate properly buried.
Little by little, salient details of the long-ago past emerge, alongside the more recent battlefield experiences in a similarly unpopular war.
But there are no earthshattering epiphanies here, or great emotional revelations, just painful memories, hardearned acceptance, and honest, everyday acts of tenderness softened by the occasional belly laugh.
The Last Flag Flying quietly reminds us that it’s the journey, rather than the destination, that’s important.
Having said that, the film packs a surprisingly powerful emotional punch.
Sal (Bryan Cranston), Larry (Steve Carell) and Mueller (Laurence Fishburne).