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Movie review: Friendship over grief under the 'Last Flag Flying'
The "Before…" trilogy and "Boyhood" have been a few films for which film-maker Richard Linklater was in recent news. The trilogy happens to be one of the most celebrated romantic-dramas in the last few decades, whereas, the other, a remarkable 12-year long coming-of-age drama about the metamorphic journey of growing from a boy into a man.

Then arrives "Last Flag Flying", adapted from the novel of the same name a multi-character narrative on the death of a loved one. Surprisingly, it's all about life and living. 

It's December 2003. A widower, Vietnam War-Veteran, "Doc" (Steve Carell, "The Office"), is on his way to collect the casket of his son, killed-in-action in Iraq. Before the scheduled burial with state-honours, Doc has a plan of his own to cope up with the events – to visit 'not' his best friends, but former "brothers-in-arms". 

Enter – "Sal" (Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"), a carefree, reckless owner of a small-bar and with no hoots for humanity; and then "Mueller" (Laurence Fishburne, "The Matrix"), now a grandfather and a God preaching-reverend. Poles apart, but they stick along with Doc. 

"Men make the wars and wars make the men" – resonate their minds as they argue over differing school-of-thoughts and realising their mutual guilt over their past. Hence, beginning from an obligatory stand-point their camaraderie grows up to believing "…that even old men should become threats." So, our 'boys' not just share their sadness but also laughs at boy-funny jokes and eventually just bond like old homies. 

I've grown up reading Ruskin Bond and Mark Twain on 'bromance'. However, apparently, it's not too melodramatic to experience friendship in its truest colours. It lies within talking about stupid versions of their philosophies, laughing your lungs out while travelling in an uncomfortable train, or by getting suspected as terrorists, or just buying mobile phones for the first time - the cheap-thrills, the idiosyncrasies are the 'fizz' and the 'buzz'. 

But, those old veterans had their best years behind them with nothing more to gain and carried pain in their hearts over their old and new experiences, esp. Doc who lost his son and wife. "Pain is Pain", said Sal; though, in just being together reminiscing past frolics and failures must have brought them some catharsis. Maybe in emptiness, that does look like a sound start to pick-up our lives. 

Righteously, as the end-titles role comes a bitter-sweet song "Not Dark Yet" by Bob Dylan. 

"I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from

Don't even hear the murmur of a prayer

It's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there." 

There's still some hope, even in the worst of our ends. 

One remarkable control of Linklater is that his films may stay within the boundaries of crossing-over to pathos but, he puts forth the living in the most relatable of circumstances. That all may seem too articulated esp. around this scenario which may turn overwhelming for viewers. So at two-hours long drama and slow sequences, it could be a drag. Nevertheless, I'd watch this film any given day again for Carrell, Cranston and Fishburne reminding how friends are – "not the best, but still ours." 

That African proverb makes more sense now – "If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk with a friend." 

A lukewarm, yet pleasing – 7.5/10

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