* “Last Flag Flying” screens at London Film Festival
* Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne star
* Already spoken of as possible Oscar contender
By Robin Pomeroy and Edward Baran
LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters) - “Last Flag Flying”, a comedy-drama about Vietnam war veterans, will resonate with Trump’s America, despite, or perhaps because of, its period setting, actor Bryan Cranston said on Sunday after a screening at the London Film Festival.
Set in the United States in December 2003 – when U.S. forces in Iraq were dragging Saddam Hussein out of a “spider hole” - it is the story of three ageing former servicemen who reunite to bury the son of one of them who has been killed in action.
With President Donald Trump saying he could “totally destroy” North Korea and characterising a dinner with military commanders as “the calm before the storm”, Cranston said “Last Flag Flying” was a timely reminder of the effect on normal Americans of ill-advised military campaigns.
“I think it has a lot of relevance today in the sense that (today) it’s not clear cut as far as the (what are the) intentions of the government or military,” Cranston, acclaimed for his lead role in the TV drama “Breaking Bad”, told Reuters.
“In World War Two, it was the ‘good war’, it was clear and present danger, we had to stop this mad man. Since then, with Vietnam and Iraq, (there are) a lot of questions ... among the troops and the citizens as to if we are doing the right thing and what is the purpose of our being there.”
“Last Flag Flying” was produced by Amazon Studios and directed and co-written by Richard Linklater, whose greatest critical acclaim has been for the naturalistic “Before Sunset” trilogy and the 2014 “Boyhood” which won a slew of Oscar nominations.
Linklater also made comedies including “School of Rock” and “Everybody Wants Some!!”, about skirt-chasing undergraduates. “Last Flag Flying” falls somewhere between the two genres.
The drama and comedy stem from the chemistry between the three leads, each played by a big Hollywood name.
Steve Carell is the awkward shy one who, we assume, was quiet and withdrawn even before the loss of his son. Cranston plays a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking bar owner who is his own best customer, and Laurence Fishburne, is a man who has found God and become an evangelical preacher, preferring to forget the sex and drugs they all indulged in back in ‘Nam.
Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson said the film’s ability to honour the footsoldiers while being critical of the wars they are sent to fight, could hit “an Academy sweet spot, satisfying both the more conservative oldsters and the younger, leftier types.”
Other critics said “Last Flag Flying” lacked the light touch of Linklater’s best work. The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee called it “a half-baked TV movie masquerading as Oscarbait, a curious misstep for the Oscar-nominated indie auteur”. (Writing by Robin Pomeroy, editing by David Evans)