Review / ‘Last Flag Flying’ (M) ***

FORTY five years ago, “The Last Detail” was the first movie based on a novel by Darryl Ponicsan and told a story about two US Navy men detailed to escort a young sailor to prison to serve eight years for a petty theft. Since then, Ponicsan has written 11 features and a TV episode across a range of themes.

The basis for “Last Flag Flying” is also a Ponicsan novel about military men escorting one of their own to his final resting place in 2003. But this one’s rather different. The Marine Corps wants the body buried at Arlington. The dead man’s father wants to bury it in his New Hampshire home town.

The dead man died in Iraq. Thirty years previously, his recently-widowed father Larry (Steve Carell) had been a US Navy medic. Carrying big grief, Larry locates his two best buddies from Vietnam to come to his succour by joining him in the escorting exercise, which is not what the Marine Corps has in mind.

The two best buddies are Sal (Bryan Cranston) now the owner of a washed out tavern bar and Richard (Laurence Fishburne) now the pastor at a small rural church. At the depot from which the body in its casket is scheduled for transport to Arlington, Col. Wilits (Yul Vazquez) wants the body dealt with in accordance with Corps tradition and “Semper Fi” motto and that means right up to the burial.

So Wilits details Pte Washington (J. Quinton Johnson) to provide an official escort on the train journey.

Directed by Richard Linklater, this very American movie sends a universal message. Its depiction of military traditions is perhaps a tad overdone. But it treats its fundamental themes of friendship and human goodness with dignity and affectionate sprinkles of humour.

At Palace Electric, Capitol 6 and Dendy

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