In Brief: The 15:17 to Paris is fascinating but forgivable slow with a climax that makes you want to stand up and salute.
Clint Eastwood’s movie-making career has taken an interesting twist. Known for doing slam-bang action flicks and mind-boggling, intense thrillers like award winners Mystic River and Unforgiven, Eastwood has settled into a new comfort zone. Apparently finding fact much more interesting than fiction, Eastwood has lately focused more on what happens to real people. Six of his last seven movies — Sully, American Sniper, Jersey Boys, J.Edgar, Invictus and now The 15:17 to Paris — and several before them have been biopics.
He’s become as much a biographer as a filmmaker.
Eastwood is also known for taking risks. The casting of The 15:17 to Paris may be his most impressive risk of all. It’s about three U.S. citizens and boyhood friends — two of them soldiers — who stopped a terrorist on a train bound for Paris. The guy had over 300 rounds of ammunition on him and if not stopped would have killed hundreds.
The three men Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler got high honors and awards from the French government and accolades from the U.S. government and President Barack Obama in particular. They also became famous worldwide.
While casting his film Eastwood decided to take a gamble and cast the three guys to play themselves in the movie based on their lives and the terrorist incident. It pays off but it doesn’t. All three have expressed interest in becoming professional actors in the future but in 15:17 it’s obvious they’re not pros. Some scenes work but others are a bit awkward.
First timer Dorothy Blyskal’s badly written script doesn’t help the three novices. Trite dialogue and too much focus on their ordinary lives and fill-for-length scenes slow Eastwood’s movie to a crawl. The early scenes with kid actors playing the three men — who’ve known each other since childhood — work. Not much else does.
Most of the film’s focus is Stone and some of his experiences are pretty funny. Stone is convinced he was born to do something important. What he and his friends did on that train that August day certainly fits his conviction.
That leads to where Eastwood’s movie works best. Once you get to the drama on the train and the real-life footage of the award ceremony in France, the accolades received in the U.S. and around the world that is spliced into the narrative turn a fairly dull biography into one that makes you want to stand and salute.
The other reason the film finally works? Eastwood — true to his style — doesn’t dilly dally. His movie is short, to the point and what really matters to the story arrives right on time.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer, Thomas Lennon
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. An amazing story of fate, God and greatness. Not to be missed by the patriots among us and — except for some slow spots — with an absolutely heartwarming climax, it shouldn’t be missed by anyone else either. Give it a 3 on the Average Joe Movie 0 to 5 scale.
5 to 4 1/2: Must see on the big screen.
4 to 3 1/2: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 to 2 1/2: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 to 1: Don’t bother.
0:Speaks for itself.
Gary Wolcott has been a movie consultant for KXL since 2014. A lifelong fan of film, he’s been a film critic in radio, television and newspaper for 25-years. Wolcott catches a couple of hundred movies a year and he sees a great many of them so you don’t have to.
Got a movie suggestion or comment? Click here to email him.