Saturday, 3 February 2018

Last Flag Flying (15)

And so we finally crawl to the third of the Unwritten Trilogy, as it's become known on the ol' to-do list.

A film about three former Vietnam vets re-united to bury the son of one of them, a son killed in action in Iraq.

It has three top stars and is billed as a 'comedy-drama'. Sure, didn't catch the trailer, but it'll be fine...

...or not...

I mean, it's got Steve Carell in it. He's always good.

And Bryan Cranston. Yeah, sure, Trumbo wasn't all that but he was bloody good in it.

Then there's Laurence Fishburn. Who doesn't like ol' LB, eh?

And it says comedy in the IMDB tags. So everything will be grand.

And OK, sure, the opening is low-key. It's underplayed. But that's just introducing two of the characters.

That's just telling us that Carell's Larry and bar-owning Sal (played by Cranston) have history, know each other from 'Nam.

It'll get going in a minute...

OK, now we're off to meet Fishburn's born-again Mueller. In his church. Well this should get us some laughs...

And then it dawns on you.

Then you remember.

This has been written and directed by Richard 'Boyhood' Linklater.

But it's too late. You're sitting down. The film has started. How you missed this key bit of info can be dealt with later. Let's just get through this thing.

It really can't be that bad. Look at the cast!

But, over two long, drawn-out, ploddy hours, you realise that while this film has three fine actors - each Oscar-nominated - it has an idiot at the helm.

A man who, based on everything we've seen of his so far, must really hate films.

Why else does he keep making stuff that is just SO bad?

You see, the problems here are two-fold. No, make that three.

The first is the pacing.

This film is just so leaden, so slow, that you wish you were drinking as much as Cranston's Sal because it might just take the edge off.

Then there's what the film is trying to say.

It's essentially a film about guilt. Guilt and nostalgia. Guilt, nostalgia and making amends. Guilt, nostalgia, making amends and how the politics of war haven't changed in 30 years. Guilt, nostalgia, amends, war politics and three guys discovering the modern world. Oh, and friendship.

The list just gets longer and longer.

And none of it quite makes sense or rings true.

The characters are poorly drawn, while the supporting cast seem to have been cobbled together from out-takes from other movies (Yul Vazquez in particular plays a colonel so cliche-ridden he wouldn't be out-of-place in a Naked Gun parody).

Then there's the symbolism.

It's staggeringly unsubtle and also has absolutely no place in the film.

You see, Fishburn plays a preacher. And Cranston's playing a bit of a devilish guy. And you will find them regularly standing either side of Carell's Larry giving conflicting advice.

The first time you see it, you can be forgiven for thinking you're reading too much into it.

But when it keeps happening, well... It's no exaggeration to say I had to be stopped from shouting at the screen.

Clumsy? Ham-fisted?

No, it's not even that good.

But these aren't the only mis-steps.

Sal's language raised eyebrows with our viewing companion (you can just about excuse it as fitting the character, but it's a bit of a stretch) while Larry's lack of angst when trains are missed is baffling.

The emotional pay-off at the end also had us muttering that it never would have played out that way.

And don't even begin to ask where the bloody uniforms came from.

Then, having gone back at watched it, there's the small matter of a scene in the trailer where Sal is talking to a woman. It's no spoiler to tell you this has no bearing on the film whatsoever.

Whoever put it in clearly didn't watch the film.

Lucky sod.

After watching the film, we were left disappointed - a little sad that such a cast were never allowed to do what they can do so well while the narrative loped along like a wounded camel.

It's only finally writing this that it's become clear just how angry this film has made us.

It's mawkish, overly-sentimental, in places insultingly dumb and attempts to play politics with a subject the writer seems to barely understand.

It's basically an abject lesson in how to take a basically good idea and screw it royally up.

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