In what is an uncharacteristically Clint Eastwood thing, The 15:17 to Paris has problems narratively. The first time script from Dorothy Blyskal is lacking in a singular focus, while the Gran Torino and Sully director seems to be making three movies wrapped into one. Movie #1: is a right-wing Christian propaganda film, complete with scenes where young Spencer has an arsenal of air-soft riffles before the age of 13, because only tough kids have guns. Spencer prays before bed, because having religion is what makes him strong. And a workout montage that looks like the finest commercial the Army can buy. Movie #2: is a travel guide to all the beautiful locations in Europe when the three men go on vacation, enjoying gelato, tall beers, and conversations with beautiful women. And Movie #3: is the pulse pounding, intense scene of the three men taking down the assailant. If I could wrap up the final 20 minutes into a package, The 15:17 to Paris would be a 4-star movie.
Wedged in between the real-life heroes is a sprinkling of Hollywood actors, Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer squeezing as much as they can out of roles that limits them to the worrisome mothers, Reno 911's Thomas Lennon plays an overreaching principle, and Tony Hale as a gym teacher with a short fuse. Mixed between all of this is the story of three friends who grew up together and ultimately went on their own paths. Of the three men, Spencer Stone's rise from being told he can't succeed by some and proving others wrong is the story that I gravitated to. His performance is the least wooden of the three and he becomes the one who takes on the most action with the attacker in the films climactic ending.
The tracks lead back to Eastwood, who continues his path of telling minimal stories (like Sully, The 15:17 to Paris clocks in at 94 minutes) of heroes finding themselves in sudden moments of great courage. It is clearly something that he's fascinated with. Sadly, his messaging along the way reads a bit mixed up. Eastwood knows what he's saying in his films, yet he shy's away from stories about other people who think differently than him. Unlike what Martin Scorsese did in Silence in challenging his own beliefs, Eastwood wants us all to be like the heroes that rise to the occasion. He certainly wants us to be fans of his work, he even takes time to subliminally decorate one characters room in a Letters to Iwo Jima poster and another wears a t-shirt of Eastwood's “man with no name” character.
The 15:17 to Paris has all of those problems till we get to the ending. I would be lying if I didn't mention that the portrayal of their stand moved me. It's a gripping, bloody, and a shocking moment, shot up-close by Eastwood's long time director of photography Tom Stern with precision. It's this brave moment that makes The 15:17 to Paris worth it. While on their trip, Spencer Stone says, “It feels like life is pushing us toward something”, and the message I got out of that is how there can be a hero inside all of us. We just might need to find it. Maybe Clint Eastwood will eventually find his next masterpiece, The 15:17 to Paris is not that, but I think he's getting closer.
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: THE 15:17 TO PARIS
STARRING: SPENCER STONE; ALEK SKARLATOS; ANTHONY SADLER; JUDY GREER
DIRECTED BY: CLINT EASTWOOD
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Most of the talk about The 15:17 To Paris will be about director Clint Eastwood's choice to use the real heroes of the story to portray themselves instead of Hollywood actors. Although it is a choice that I found to be an honorable decision, it is that, and a few other narrative selections, that leads to the films various problems. Actors these men are not, but heroes they certainly are. Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler did something that few would ever do in a time of terror. In 2015 they took action, stopping a man with heavy weaponry, on a train from Amsterdam to Paris, attempting to kill as many passengers in his path that he could. Their heroics deserve to be praised and The 15:17 To Paris comes close to getting it right.