Review: The 15:17 to Paris | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: The 15:17 to Paris

Film Critic Luis Freijo is profoundly disheartened by Clint Eastwood's latest true-story-tale The 15:17 to Paris

A decade has passed since the last time that Clint Eastwood produced, directed, and starred a film. It was Gran Torino, and it remains the last great film of the legendary director and actor. After his retirement from acting (with the exception of Trouble with the Curve), Eastwood has focused his career on based-on-real-facts stories and his last three features are said to form an informal trilogy about American and ordinary heroism. I find this final turn in his career extremely unappealing and, in some cases, sadly disappointing. Unfortunately, after watching The 15:17 to Paris, it seems that there is not much hope left.

The 15:17 to Paris tells the true story of three young U.S. citizens that stopped a terrorist attack on a train from Amsterdam to the capital of France. The terrorist was armed with and AK-47 and two pistols and accumulated more than 300 hundred rounds of ammunition. He was restrained mainly by the three Americans, two of which belonged to the military forces, alongside some of the other passengers of the train. The situation (climax of the film) was resolved in some very frightful minutes but, of course, this is a feature film intended for commercial release, so the film chooses to account for the lives of the heroes (especially one of them) and the events that led them to the train. And I mean "chooses" in a literal sense, because the script selects specific chapters of their lives to construct an spurious and simplified cause-effect line. Like Boyhood, but backwards.

The film starts with Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, and Spencer Stone as kids attending an ultra-christian school. Education gets hit first. Teachers in that school range from incompetent to evil, impatient, unfair, ignorant... Nothing seems to be worth salvaging there. Luckily, the Army comes to the rescue.

The problem is that the cult for guns and uniforms, is never made problematic, quite the contrary, is glorified and ultimately shown as necessary
The three friends have a fascination with guns and war, something that can be understood as childhood games. The problem is that the cult for guns and uniforms, is never made problematic, quite the contrary, is glorified and ultimately shown as necessary. No sweat about it, violence against violence, and Manifest Destiny, as Skarlatos, Stone and Sadler were meant to be in that train in order to stop the attack. In a country that bears a tragically high number of deaths by gunfire per year, that is simply irresponsible. The intelligent, subtle and complex approach on the difference between discourse and truth within heroism that Eastwood took with Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima has vanished. Only propaganda is left now.

That impossible narrative joins an unbelievable vulgarity in the filmmaking. The acting is clichéd, the cinematography is obvious, the montage treacherous. It looks as if the Eastwood and his team did not really care about the form of the film. This is not classicism, as with Gran Torino or Million Dollar Baby. It is simply dull. It calls to mind the German telefilms that are used in Spain for napping on a Sunday afternoon, especially when the three protagonists reach their travel around Europe.

It is simply dull. It calls to mind the German telefilms that are used in Spain for napping on a Sunday afternoon
All the significant places are visited in what appears a home-made video of random tourists (of the obnoxious selfie-taking kind, no less). I would only highlight one positive aspect of all this (for the sake of not being completely mean to a filmmaker that I profoundly admire): Eastwood has managed to get some very fresh performances from Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler, who play themselves in the film. It may appear as something easy to do, but one thing is being oneself and another completely different thing is to be natural in front of a camera, and the three heroes succeed at it.

It is difficult to pinpoint what is going on with Eastwood lately. Granted, the man is 87 and keeps making a film every year, or every two. But maybe he should think about taking some more time, in order to not loose quality in his works, like it has happened with other "youngsters" such as Ridley Scott, Woody Allen, or even Terrence Malick. And I don´t think it is a matter of pace. Between 2003 and 2008 Eastwood crafted four masterpieces (Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Gran Torino) and two very good films (Flags from Our Fathers and Changeling), but his choices have not been as fortunate after that. It seems that the last great Western that I am hoping for is less and less likely.

Verdict: The 15:17 to Paris finds its definition somewhere between telefilm, travel video and propaganda. Filmed in a very non-creative way, nothing in there bears any kind of interest. One of the worst films in Clint Eastwood's career, if not the worst.

Rating: 2/10


18th February 2018 at 9:00 am

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