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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Last Flag Flying is a dramedy about a Vietnam War veteran who enlists the aid of two other veterans to help claim the body of his son, who was killed in the Iraq War. With director Richard Linklater at the helm, the movie is filled with fascinating talk and wonderfully human (if very flawed) characters, and it's a very funny, profoundly moving achievement. Language is quite strong, with many uses of all types of words, led by "f--k," "s--t," and "c--k." There's also plenty of strong sex-related talk, including discussion of prostitutes. Characters drink frequently, and one character may be an alcoholic, although it's never confirmed. Some smoking is shown, and drugs are mentioned. Violence is described in some scenes, including talk of being killed in war. This is a complicated movie with complicated themes, but it does deal with empathy and tolerance. Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne co-star.
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What's the story?
In LAST FLAG FLYING, former Navy Corps medic Larry "Doc" Shepherd (Steve Carell) arrives in a bar. It's 2003, and the bar is owned by his old friend, ex-Marine Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston). After a night of drinking, Doc takes Sal to see another old friend and ex-Marine, Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), who's now a reverend. The three men once served together in Vietnam, and now Doc has a favor to ask. He wants his friends to come with him to claim the body of his dead son, who was killed in the Iraq War. But after learning more about his son's death, Doc decides not to bury him in Arlington Cemetery and asks his friends to help take him home to New Hampshire. Along the way, the three men share memories, laughs, tears, and regrets.
Is it any good?
One of the best filmmakers of our time, Richard Linklater has done it again: This extremely funny, deeply affecting dramedy about loss and regret is handled with genuine simplicity and sincerity. Ever unpredictable but always concerning himself with profoundly human stories, Linklater (Bernie, Boyhood, Everybody Wants Some!!) found his inspiration in Darryl Ponicsan's novel Last Flag Flying, a sequel to the novel The Last Detail, which also inspired a much-loved 1973 movie by Hal Ashby. Last Flag Flying is similar in character and structure, and both are equally great.
With deceptive ease, Linklater builds each scene filled with talk, and yet the movie never seems too talky. (Think of the captivating conversations in Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight.) Its humble design takes advantage of wintertime (and Christmas) but takes place in trains, cars, waiting rooms, bars, and other ordinary locations. Only a giant airplane hangar filled with military coffins stands out. This atmosphere helps draw the characters together, and, thanks to three great performances (for once it's possible to forget all about Walter White while watching Cranston), they effortlessly make us laugh and cry. Best of all, we don't want to see them go.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Last Flag Flying's themes and messages. What is it trying to say? Does it succeed?
If you've read either of Darryl Ponicsan's books about these characters -- or seen the movie The Last Detail -- how do they compare to this film?
- In theaters: November 3, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: January 30, 2018
- Cast: Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, Steve Carell
- Director: Richard Linklater
- Studio: Amazon Studios
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters
- Character Strengths: Empathy
- Run time: 124 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout including some sexual references
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