“Last Flag Flying” and the muddled politics of war


IN 1973, Hal Ashby released “The Last Detail”, a film whose anti-authoritarian politics made it an icon of the counterculture. It is the story of two Navy lifers (Jack Nicholson and Otis Young) tasked with accompanying a young petty thief (Randy Quaid) to military prison. Along the way they show him a good time and gripe about the abuse of power in his heavy sentence: although he only stole $40, his he had stolen from a jar promoting a charity favoured by the head officer. “Last Flag Flying”, a new film by Richard Linklater, is a sequel of sorts, aiming for the same blend of rollicking hijinks, low-key tragedy and poignant political critique. The times, however, have changed. There is no real counterculture now, only a series of competing views, leaving “Last Flag Flying” with nothing to subvert.

Set in 2003, the film opens with Doc (Steve Carell), a taciturn Vietnam veteran who arrives at a bar owned by his salty old platoon mate Sal (Bryan Cranston), a gregarious drunk. The two have not seen each other in decades, and…Continue reading

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