I had the good fortune to attend Opening Night of the 55th New York Film Festival, which featured the world premiere of Richard Linklater’s new film, Last Flag Flying. The film is a hilarious and dark picture of men, the military, and the early 2000’s in America.
Bryan Cranston, Lawrence Fishburne, and Steve Carrell play three Vietnam combat veterans who were close friends during their tour of duty but have not seen each other in decades. They end up on a road trip where we see how they’ve changed (or not) and confront their mortality and their pasts. The characters also make comparisons between their Vietnam experience and the Iraq conflict playing out at the time — 2003, during the height of the Iraq war.
This is a film focused very much on men — though there is a standout scene with Cicely Tyson as the mother of a Marine the trio saw die in Vietnam. Race, politics, fatherhood, aging, class, and morality are all points of contention and conversation. The film is not without some gut-bustingly funny and very profane humor as these veterans rekindle a friendship based on shared experiences they’ll never forget.
The life and career of Richard Linklater (b. 1960) is featured in American Masters – Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny. The documentary provides an unconventional look at the fiercely independent style of filmmaking that emerged out of Austin, Texas in the late 1980s and 1990s with Linklater as its poster boy.
Linklater’s body of work includes Dazed and Confused (1993); Before Sunrise (1995), for which Linklater won the Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear Award for Best Director; Suburbia (1997); The Newton Boys (1998), a western/gangster film set in the 1920s; the animated feature Waking Life (2001); the real-time drama Tape (2001); the hit comedy School Of Rock (2003); $5:15 An Hour (TV); Before Sunset (2004), which earned him an Academy Award nomination; Bad News Bears (2005); A Scanner Darkly (2006); Fast Food Nation (2006); Inning By Inning: A Portrait of a Coach (2008); Me And Orson Welles (2009); Bernie (2012); Up to Speed (2012, Hulu); Before Midnight (2013); Boyhood (2014); Everybody Wants Some!! (2016); and Last Flag Flying (2017).