There are two types of military movies. There’s the “blow everything up” action movie, which I enjoy just as much as the next guy. Then there’s the one that shows the aftermath of blowing everything up; the one that shows the price of war. Last Flag Flying is the latter.
Some 30 years after serving together in Vietnam, Doc (Steve Carrell), Sal (Bryan Cranston), and Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) reunite to bury Doc’s son Larry, a Marine that was killed in Baghdad. Larry was set to have a full military funeral in Arlington Cemetary. However, after finding out the story of Larry losing his life in a firefight wasn’t exactly true, Doc decided he didn’t want his son to be buried in Arlington. So begins the journey of getting Larry back home to be buried next to his mother, whom he lost to breast cancer.
“Last Flag Flying” Cast
In Last Flag Flying, Doc is a sailor, and he happens to be the quiet one. He’s a bit shy and socially awkward. From the very beginning, you can tell he’s carrying a huge weight on his shoulders. Yes, he is dealing with the loss of his son, but there’s something else. Throughout the movie, you just can’t help but feel bad for the guy.
Sal is 100% Devil Dog. Within about a minute of meeting Sal, I turned to my wife and said, “He’s a Marine.” He’s definitely not unlikeable. Matter of fact, he’s actually my favorite in the movie. He is very hilariously racist. That sounds bad, but let me explain. One of my favorite lines in the movie (I’m Chicano so keep that in mind), is right toward the beginning. He says, “We have Mexicans now so we can get huevos con pollo.” He’s never demeaning; just the way he says things can be taken out of context. He doesn’t mean harm. If you take offense, too bad.
Mueller is a now a pastor that walks with a cane. We soon find out it’s due to injuries he suffered while on active duty. Almost from the minute we meet him, you can tell he harbors feelings of anger, and maybe regret, at the sight of Doc and Sal. After a short time, we find out he is a Marine also. When asked directly, he simply replies with an “Oorah”.
This was simply a great movie. Having good actors always helps, but great storytelling can overcome most deficiencies in acting. Luckily, this movie has both. There can be times when the storytelling can be a little frustrating, but everything comes together by the end.
It’s very easy for this movie to, at times, feel like a road trip movie. We follow Doc, Sal, and Mueller from Virginia to New Hampshire to bury Doc’s son. The military tells Doc a story of how his son was killed in Afghanistan and how much of a hero he was. When Doc finds this story to be untrue, as told by a Marine that was there, he refuses to have his son buried in Arlington Cemetery.
We are treated to many laughs throughout the movie. Don’t get me wrong, the overall tone of the movie is very serious. If you get brothers together, there is bound to be a handful of laughs. One of my favorite scenes takes place in a train car. The guys recount how they spent their downtime in the company of some ladies while in ‘Nam. This is where we learn the origin of Mueller’s nickname “Mauler”. Another comes in when 3 grown children are getting their first “mobile phone”. Sal really helps bring this scene to life.
The journey isn’t always a pleasant one. While the three friends share some very fond memories of their time serving together, they also must recount a memory that haunts all of them. This is a memory that ended with Doc spending time in the brig and being discharged from the military for bad conduct. While everyone has gone on with their lives, not a single one has gotten closure for what happened some 30 years ago.
If there’s something I have a hard time with, it’s watching someone being presented with a family members’ flag. Yet this still wasn’t the most emotional part of the movie. Last Flag Flying was a very good movie, as it makes you feel different things about each character. I felt bad for Doc, thought Sal was hilarious, and kinda thought Mueller was a jerk at first.
The Last Flag Flying Blu-ray adds a few deleted scenes, outtakes, and a little featurette about the scenes that were shot on Veteran’s Day. It’s not a lot, but enough to add to the overall feel of the movie a bit.
Do you prefer to watch the more serious side of war, or do you just want to see explosions? Let us know in the comments!