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'Last Flag Flying' & The Ties That Bind

"Last Flag Flying" (opening Friday in select cities before rolling out across the country during November) reunites three Vietnam veterans on a 2003 road trip to bury one of their sons, a Marine killed during service in Iraq. Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne star in the movie based on Daryl Ponicsan's novel, a book that was the sequel to his Vietnam-era classic "The Last Detail."

We got a chance to speak with actors Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and J. Quinton Johnson about the film and the interviews are embedded below. Cranston also answers questions about his audiobook performance of Vietnam veteran Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" and Fishburne talks about how acting in "Apocalypse Now" as a teenager informed this performance.

Writer/director Richard Linklater and Ponsican's script makes some changes to the character names and circumstances so this movie isn't really a sequel to the classic movie starring Jack Nicholson, Otis Young and Randy Quaid.

Richard Linklater's movie couldn't be less Hollywood. He's fascinated with how shared experiences form bonds between people and how those experiences shape character as life goes on. That's the theme of his Oscar-nominated "Boyhood" and what's really going on in his college-baseball comedy "Everybody Wants Some!!." 

Steve Carell plays Larry 'Doc' Shepard, a man who wants to know the truth about his son's death in Iraq. He enlists his war buddies Sal Nealon (Cranston) and Richard Mueller (Fishburne) to join him on his trip to bury his son. "Buddies" may be a stretch because something happened between the three men that landed Doc in the brig and ended his military career.

Over the course of their journey, the three men connect with Larry, Jr.'s best friend, a Marine named Charlie Washington (J. Quinton Johnson, who was also excellent in "Everybody Wants Some!!") assigned to accompany his fellow Marine's body home.

This is the kind of script that actors love because they get to do some Serious Acting, but Linklater keeps the camera running and, as usual for his movies, the long takes and scenes break down the artifice and begin to reveal some truth about how and why people stay connected.

"Last Flag Flying" doesn't take on the burden of speaking for all veterans. It's not a message to civilians about the state of the military. It's about three guys who reunite after decades apart, how those old experiences have shaped them and how they connect with a younger version of themselves.

Bryan Cranston

 

Laurence Fishburne

J. Quinton Johnson

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