In the quest to make the perfect film for the age of Trump, some strive for success and others stumble upon it. In the former camp, there’s Steven Spielberg’s Pentagon Papers drama The Post, a tale of journalists battling government corruption, hurried through production so that it could be in multiplexes before Trump’s first year was over.
And then there’s Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying, a film about three retired soldiers on a quest to give one man’s son a full military burial. Set at the time of the second Iraq war, Linklater’s film is poignant and blackly funny, but not something that felt particularly specific to today. Or at least it didn’t – until Trump began his tirade against NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. He claimed they were disrespecting the flag and those tasked with defending it. Suddenly the themes of the film – patriotism, the military, respecting the star-spangled banner – were being hotly debated on cable news and social media. Linklater had made a Trump movie … by accident.
“Isn’t it funny?” says the director, seated in a Soho hotel room, as the film arrives in Britain. “A year ago, when we were filming, it couldn’t have been further from our minds. I guess it just shows there are perpetual questions: what is patriotism, what does the flag mean, whose flag is it, and are you disrespecting it?”