Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer, Ray Corasani
Run Time: 94 mins
The 15:17 To Paris is the latest by Clint Eastwood, who continues to churn out film after film despite being almost ninety. Will Eastwood ever take a break? For the most part, Eastwood’s films have been great and he has proven to be just as capable behind the camera as he is in front of it. I really enjoyed Eastwood’s last two directorial efforts – American Sniper and Sully, both making it into my Top Twenty list of their respective years. The 15:17 To Paris is a retelling of the 2015 Thalys train attack, in which a handful of brave men took on a gunman, who had plans of killing everyone on-board but due to these men’s bravery, just four people were injured. What allows Eastwood’s latest to stand out is his decision to have the three men (Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone) play themselves, not be played by famous actors. This is a risky decision and the first of its kind – a lot hinges on a good performance from these men because if they’re not convincing, the credibility of the film will be lost.
Whilst Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone’s performances are serviceable, The 15:17 To Paris is a major disappointment and low point in Eastwood’s career. Unlike Sully where Eastwood managed to craft a riveting film out of a single event, other than the main event of the terrorist attack, the rest of the film is just needless and aimless padding. The film doesn’t do itself any favours by being saddled with a terrible script by Dorothy Blyskal. The script lacks direction and largely fails to develop the characters of these three men. There are even some moments that are just cringeworthy to watch – an early scene in the film as we watch the childhoods of these boys is downright painful to watch. A schoolteacher unprofessionally and dimissively diagnoses two of the boys with a disability to two single mothers.
There is a section of the film which is solely concerned with the men travelling around Europe which is almost equally misjudged – constantly taking selfies and behaving like stereotypical, annoying tourists. This goes on for a good half an hour or so, which is a fair amount of the 94 minute run time. Whilst it is perhaps important to portray how these men got on the ill-fated train, this sequence does nothing to advance the narrative and has no depth or gravitas. When the actual event itself arrives, Eastwood does a serviceable job in portraying the horror on-board but the film never earned this sequence as I wasn’t emotionally invested in it.
Surprisingly, the three men do have good chemistry together and whilst there isn’t all that much depth to their characters, they are serviceable. This is the same of the rest of the cast, although Judy Greer sticks out like a sore thumb in a terribly over-the-top performance as Spencer’s mother.
Unfortunately, The 15:17 To Paris is a rare unsatisfactory work by Clint Eastwood and never compelling when it should be. These normally talented filmmakers have failed to crack a gripping narrative that the event is interwoven into. Eastwood has demonstrated multiple times he can do this – just look at Sully for example. It’s a real shame this film hasn’t worked out and I really hope that this film doesn’t lessen or cheapen the heroic nature of these three men, when the film shouldn’t do this. People should look back to this event and appreciate the courage of these three men, not look back at a dramatisation. Perhaps the film would have worked better as a documentary?