With “The 15:17 To Paris,” Eastwood dutifully recounts an August 2015 incident wherein three American friends (two of them military) courageously subdued an armed terrorist on a Paris-bound train. Fair enough. But toplined by gimmick casting (the three heroes star as themselves; not one can act a lick), “Paris” ends up the most amateurish, inadvertently funny studio film in recent memory.
Moreover, unlike the director’s relatively nuanced (if fact-challenged) “American Sniper,” the pic has no interest in shading its characters, only in stoking the already hot flames of American nationalism.
Real-life twenty-somethings and best friends Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler are our leads, with the lion’s share of screen time going to Stone. A warning to moviegoers pining for a comprehensive look at the titular incident: the bulk of the film is spent following its largely uninteresting protagonists through adolescence and into adulthood, much of it tailbone-numbing. The moments leading up to the train attack briefly open the film (Eastwood tellingly hides the attacker’s face but lingers on his brown skin). Then the incident is only teased in occasional flash forwards over the next hour.
Actual, proficient actors like Jenna Fischer and Judy Greer (they play Spencer and Alek’s mothers, respectively) are wasted on Dorothy Blyskal’s outrageously ligneous script. Adapted from Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler’s book of the same name, the first-time screenwriter (whose mysterious ascension from staff assistant on Eastwood’s last film, “Sully,” is the most interesting thing about “The 15:17 To Paris”) bears the unenviable burden of non-actors delivering much of her dialogue. Nevertheless, it is very bad dialogue, the majority bookended by stilted exclamations of “man” and “bro.”
Beyond the dreadful acting and writing, the pic has all the visual flair of an insurance commercial, barely flickering to life in its violent homestretch. It only registers as rote re-enactment, far less memorable than an embarrassing scene where Stone, Sadler, and a new friend shoot the breeze in an Italian Gelato shop.
Whether or not the story behind “The 15:17 To Paris” is substantial enough to carry feature film is a moot point. It exists and it is laughably bad, through no fault of its subjects – their acting abilities notwithstanding.
Rating: 1/2 ★ out of ★★★★★ (Garbage)
Release Date: February 9, 2018
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenwriter: Dorothy Blyskal
Starring: Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer, P.J. Byrne, Tony Hale, Thomas Lennon
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for bloody images, violence, some suggestive material, drug references and language)