Writer/director Richard Linklater, recently the subject of a PBS American Masters documentary, continues his distinguished career with the fine film Last Flag Flying. It played Tuesday night at the Prytania Theater as part of the New Orleans Film Festival.
Set in 2003, Larry (Steve Carell) is a Vietnam vet reeling from the death of his son in Iraq a short six months after he lost his wife to breast cancer. He visits old war buddies Sal and Richard (Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne) and asks them to go with him to claim the body, even though the men haven’t seen each other in decades.
What follows is a mostly plotless road trip movie as the men discuss their lives and regrets. But Linklater, as in the Before Sunrise movies, Dazed & Confused, and Everybody Wants Some, has proved time and time again that he can make movies that consist mostly of conversations that are interesting and lively. He’s a writer who clearly likes people in all of their quirks, flaws, and idiosyncrasies and his affection for his characters is evident here as well. There is a sadness and humor in equal measures.
But considering that the film mostly talks between characters, it would not work if the lead actors did not make the audience care. They do. All three leads give strong performances and it’s worth two hours of your time to see Last Flag Flying in the theater (it is expected to open in New Orleans in November).