The 15:17 to Paris
All good filmmakers have blips in their respected oeuvres. Tarantino misfired with Jackie Brown, Paul Thomas Anderson turned boring with Inherent Vice, and Spielberg has made plenty of expensive mistakes (everyone knows which ones). We forgive them because there’s always something in the errors, something worth more than most. But in the latest feature from Clint Eastwood, the faults are so basic and numerous that it dissolves any anticipation for his next project.
The 15:17 to Paris tells the true story of Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos (all playing themselves) – three best friends who subdued a terrorist gunman on a train from Amsterdam to Paris in 2015. The film tracks their humble beginnings, military training, and the inter-railing trip around Europe that led them to be on the 15:17 to Paris.
The most appalling aspect of this excruciatingly dull biopic is the screenplay from Dorothy Blyskal, made even worse by Eastwood’s careless direction. The motivation is clear: they want The 15:17 to Paris to feel as natural as possible, and the viewer is initially intrigued by the clear Neo-Realist influence pervading the picture. But – as we stumble forward – one realises the Neo-Realism is just a cover, an excuse to a film-school tutor.
Eastwood has thrown three lads together to play themselves and even, in a dire effort to preserve this pseudo-intellectual pursuit for realism, discouraged them from taking acting lessons or following the script. On paper, it’s a brave step. On film, it’s like neither Eastwood nor Blyskal could be bothered developing the scenes themselves – leaving it up to inexperienced actors instead. They do lend a greater legitimacy to the violent scenes in the train, which are jarringly realistic, but everything beforehand is embarrassing to watch. The dialogue, particularly, is horrific – comparable (both in content and delivery) to Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. In trying to be more natural, Eastwood has made the film sinfully unnatural.
If there was one feature to show a director has lost their spark, it’s The 15:17 to Paris. It’s a movie from a bored director whose attention rises whenever a pretty girl walks past, so he can aim his camera up her skirt. But the horrendous structure, laughable dialogue and mediocre performances (including and especially from the professionals) are enough to break a good career.
The 15:17 to Paris is released nationwide on 9th February 2018.
Watch the trailer for The 15:17 to Paris here: