The 15:17 to Paris (2018)
Critic Consensus: The 15:17 to Paris pays clumsily well-intentioned tribute to an act of heroism, but by casting the real-life individuals involved, director Clint Eastwood fatally derails his own efforts.
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Critic Reviews for The 15:17 to Paris
They're all handsome but just appalling actors. This disjuncture is impossible to forget while watching the film, and it's very uncomfortable.
Despite good intentions, the movie never lives up to the breathless excitement the real-life story promises.
"The 15:17 to Paris" suffers from an excess of dramatic wadding, and the over-all effect is too muffled and often too dull, sadly, to make an impact.
The action sequence on the train is truly remarkable, and Eastwood shoots with a documentary-style immediacy, but the surrounding film - especially the script and performances - doesn't serve this thrilling true-life story, or the audience.
The 15:17 to Paris shows that the 87-year-old director is still capable of surprises.
Audience Reviews for The 15:17 to Paris
Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler were three ordinary servicemen taking a train ride into Paris when they found themselves in the middle of an armed terrorist attack. The three men rushes into danger, disarmed and subdued the attacker, and treated the injured on the scene. The 15:17 to Paris is a big screen movie directed by Clint Eastwood (American Sniper) that tells their life stories played by the men themselves. It got some of the worst reviews of Eastwood's storied career (mine won't be better). There are two gigantic miscalculations when it comes to 15:17 to Paris: 1) having the real-life subjects play the adult versions of themselves, and 2) that there was enough material here to fill out an engaging, enlightening, fulfilling film experience. I assumed telling this real-life story as a movie was going to be a challenge to produce enough meaningful material to eek out a feature-length running time, and within the first five minutes I knew that I was doomed. We're sitting down to two single moms discussing their boys with their classroom teacher, and that teacher literally says, "If you don't medicate them now they'll just self-medicate later. Statistically, boys of single moms are more likely to have problems." My response: "What the hell, lady?!" This character was obviously engineered, from her very foundation, to be a walking, talking point of exposition and disagreement. No real teacher would ever utter these words so callously. It was this rude awakening that made me realize what a terribly written slog I was in for. At no point were these supporting characters going to come across as authentic human beings. Instead, it's a world populated by robots with bad social skills or unshakable faith played by familiar actors (Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer, Thomas Lennon, Tony Hale, Jaleel White of all people). Also, what little kid has a Full Metal Jacket poster in his bedroom? Did he not understand what that movie was about? These men can rightly serve as an inspiration, rising to the occasion in a true test of courage. No one will challenge the heroism. But what else is there to this story? The attack is presented as the framing device and as it plays out we segue into lengthy flashbacks about their lives leading up to this pivotal point in time. It's just that these three men lived fairly uneventful, normal lives until finding themselves in a unique situation. We don't seem to trace any significant, formative moments. Spending time with them as kids, then teens, and finally as adults doesn't so much provide greater understanding of them as people as it does pad out the running time. We watch them get in trouble twice at school for not having a hall pass. We watch them watch football. We watch them endure training montages. We watch the trio tour the sights of Italy and eat gelato. We watch an Army team retrieve a backpack. We watch Spencer get demoted for not stitching properly. Seriously, this is given time. It's not even until a full hour-plus into the movie before they confront the attack on the train. Chronicling the lives of normal, real-life people under extraordinary circumstances is not by itself a fatal flaw, as evidenced by the masterful and mournful United 93. The power of empathy allows us to leap into a multitude of perspectives. However, with United 93 there was an ongoing story that could unfold because of the scope of events. There were developments, deadly complications, and the slow realization of what was happening, what was going to happen, and what needed to be done. With 15:17 to Paris, the attack is uncomplicated and over relatively quickly. There's a reason Eastwood saves the train attack for the end because it cannot function as a sufficient movie plot on its own. Eastwood had a similar predicament with his previous film chronicling the heroism of the pilot who landed a plane on the Hudson River. The plane crash was thrilling and Tom Hanks added some layers to the portrayal of a man uncomfortable with the spotlight. 15:17 to Paris doesn't even have that much. It's a tedious trek to an all-too swift climax. The other large miscalculation was having the real-life actors portray themselves. These guys just are not actors. I suppose Eastwood felt the real-life figures would best understand the emotions of each scene, in particular the attack, but another approach would be simply teaching actors. The forced verisimilitude feels like a marketing gimmick meant to appeal to a select audience. Making things more difficult is that these guys just aren't that interesting as subjects. Sure there are broad strokes of characterization applied here and there but it's with very minimal effort (see above for some of the just-had-to-include plot moments). This is another reason actors would have been preferable, because these guys' lives don't have to be interesting for my benefit. Their lives were not destined to one day entertain me on the big screen. They can simply be normal people. On the other hand, watching normal people do normal, boring things without a more enriching sense of introspection, personalities, or depth is like being trapped watching someone else's home movies on a loop. Spencer Stone performs the best of his buds but none of them should expect a second career as an in-demand thespian. I feel bad saying this but I really just didn't care, and that's because the movie gave me no reason to do so here. Yes, these three men are heroes and their sense of normality might lend itself toward a larger theme about the everyday capabilities of heroism, but there isn't enough here to make me care beyond the train attack. The screenwriting does not present them as multi-dimensional characters and perhaps that's because of the guys' limitations as actors, exacerbating a spiral that only makes 15:17 to Paris less involving as it chases after the idol of authenticity. Eastwood is known for being an economical filmmaker but it feels like he should have been even more judicious here. The adherence to strictly the facts strips the film of some of its larger emotional power. There's far too much filler and not enough substance to balance out 90-plus minutes. You'll grow restless. If there's a lesson to be learned from The 15:17 to Paris, let it be that every story needs a reason to exist and, when in doubt, trust actors to deliver that story. Nate's Grade: C-
An ineptly-written movie that doesn't know how to build momentum and cannot find a good reason to justify us watching the lives of these three people ever since they were kids, becoming only dull as we follow them in every single step of their trip until they finally get to the train.
The 15:17 to Paris is not a good movie and likely never should have been a movie in the first place. Prior to Gone Girl coming out in 2014 there was an interview with director David Fincher where he stated in regards to the adaptation process that, "The book is many things. You have to choose which aspect you want to make a movie from." This is likely what writer Dorothy Blyskal should have done were she to stand the chance of making a compelling picture out of the lives of the three young men that saved a passenger train full of people from being killed by a terrorist in 2015. There is no disputing what these guys did was heroic and that, if their story was going to be turned into a feature film, that it deserved to be a compelling one, but The 15:17 to Paris is not that movie. No, The 15:17 to Paris isn't really much of a movie at all despite the fact it could be looked at as one of great risk and ambition. Directed by Clint Eastwood, Blyskal's script decides to tell the broad story of the friendship between our three protagonists whom Eastwood decided to cast with the real heroes themselves rather than having actors portray them. Unfortunately, Blyskal not choosing an aspect of these guy's lives to zero in on and make a movie out of essentially separates the picture into two distinct halves: one being the military recruitment ad the first half functions as while the second forty-five minutes may as well be a European travelogue with the event we're all in the theater to see being tacked on in the last twenty or so minutes. This final sequence is the only part of the film that holds any real tension, any real drama, or hint of any real style that resembles that of a film produced by a major studio and made by an Academy Award winning director and actor. Of course, just as The 15:17 to Paris probably never should have been a feature film it was never going to be a feature film in the traditional fashion, but more one that solidified Eastwood is now making statements with his efforts rather than simply pondering and contemplating with his art. For Eastwood, The 15:17 to Paris is the definition of heroism; no qualms, no frills, no debate about it. That's fine and I can appreciate the choice, but defining a certain quality doesn't automatically make that representation of the same quality. Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos are heroes, no doubt, but their movie is (unfortunately) pretty terrible. read the whole review at www.reviewsfromabed.com
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