The 15:17 to Paris Review


Just watch an old man talk to a chair

Alright Clint Eastwood, this shit has got to stop. People have been giving you a pass on your last few films because you are a goddamn old and a Hollywood legend, so most have been afraid to call you out on your annual medicore output that really doubles as you telling younger generations to “get off your lawn.” Now some of my readers may think I’m being hard on Mr. Eastwood, but there’s also a strong chance you have not seen The 15:17 to Paris. And for those that have, they may feel I’m actually going soft on the esteemed filmmaker.

So here’s the ‘sitch: we follow the lives of three Americans (Spencer Stone, Alexander Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler) before they were involved in thwarting a shooting aboard a train in France in 2015. The twist for Eastwood was having the actual guys portray themselves on screen. While I’m sure this was a nice gesture for three heroes, keep in mind the whole attack on the train last a grand total of 85 seconds…and we have a 90 minute film on our hands. So what the hell do we do for the hour and a half runtime? Masturbate, obviously, with a bunch of guys who couldn’t act if their lives depended on it.

“Hey guys, Clint wants us to…buy a porno and jerk it…y’all think that’s a good idea?”

While that sounds harsh, the cynic in me strongly suspected Eastwood only casted the real guys upon realizing he didn’t have much a film story to work with, so he placed these guys on the screen to deflect major criticisms of his work. Unfortunately for the director, I can very easily say that these men were indeed courageous in a moment of desperation but I can also say they can’t act their way out of a wet paper bag. And that’s perfectly fine, I mean you don’t expect the soldier who shot Osama Bin Laden to also cure cancer or even perform something as menial as taking out a cavity, but that’s why we have experts in certain professions. It’s why I cringe when singers try to act when they have piss-all talent as opposed to their normal craft where they excel. And what’s not helpful is that, prior to their fateful encounter in that train, these guys really did not have that interesting of a life that warranted a feature length film.

See we are treated to how these men first met as boys, bonding over the fact they were all misfits who loved military hardware like every other boy in Middle America. But do we see how they get into misadventures or how their obsession charted out the rest of their lives? Nope, the whole childhood segment unceremoniously ends with the kids being forced to live away from each other but resolving to stay in touch. So you might be thinking, “Oh. That’s…nice, I guess, but how does showing you their childhood impact the film at all?” Well, it accomplishes two things my dear readers: 1) fuck and 2) all. This whole business doesn’t come into play for their moment of triumph, nor does it flesh out any of their characters because: a) these guys are painfully underwritten and b) these couldn’t handle any emotion besides solemn determination or jokey sarcasm.

Or reenact their vacation photos

I was having trouble figuring what the hell point of showing us this aspect of their life, until the halfway point where one of the trio “bravely” positions himself behind a locked classroom during an active shooter scenario on a military base before being dismissed as an “asshole” (actual quote) by his superiors. Now you would think this scene was to set up the fact that this person was obsessed with being a “hero” regardless of how idiotic some of his actions sound, but the scene cuts to another one of the men making a routine stop in Afghanistan and the shooter scene is never brought up again in dialogue nor in theme. It was then, that I realized that this film was not for Eastwood to tell the heroic tale of thwarting a possible terrorist attack, but to get off his chest all his personal gripes about the younger generation and what he finds to be positive qualities that should be emulated as he do the stars of his piece. And suddenly, strange scenes in the first act started to make more sense for their bizarre inclusion.

You see, in the first five minutes of the film, a mother of one of the men was confronted by a school counselor who encouraged her son to take anti-ADHD medication. The mother responds with an indignant “My God is stronger than your statistics” (actual quote) before storming off from the office. While the whole business surrounding ADHD is never brought up again, it was illustrative of the fact that Eastwood wanted to rant about how he finds the over-medication of America’s children to be counter to his normal conservative ethos. But while that’s an interesting angle to explore in a film, he drops it on the side of the road like an unwanted child before pissing off to some more hero worship in the laziest way imaginable.

“So this kind of messed up, but…do I have anything to say? I mean, I did try to kill a whole lot of people and failed miserably because I clueless dumbshit with no firearms experience but I could have had SOMETHING to say.”

While Eastwood clearly has nothing but respect for his subjects, he can’t find a reason to make us give a shit about their lives in the slightest. Scenes feel poorly stitched together, in the worst way imaginable that I had to look to Batman v. Superman as a “better” example. Not one of his characters experience anything remotely resembling an arc. And he chains together events in the biggest faux pas of all: interludes with a pop song where NOTHING happens. It’s starling just how half-assed this effort looks and feels, that I’m faced with my last ditch effort to save this film from the lowest rating: did anything work in this movie? And the answer really is “nothing.” Not the score, not the bland writing, not the garbage pacing, and certainly not the thespians.

Even the central conceit of the fateful train trip wasn’t fascinating at all. In Eastwood’s previous work in Sully, we at least had a plane disaster that was averted in the last possible second thanks to the quick thinking of the pilot and actions of the crew, which gave us at least 30 minutes intense material to work with. The actual terrorist attack attempt aboard this train transpired in mere seconds, from the attacker walking out fully armed to the passengers’ attempts to restrain him to the aftermath in making sure victims were safe. At best, this makes for a decent YouTube spectacle that last three minutes tops.

I pondered whether to give the legendary filmmaker an abysmal rating; but frankly, my patience has run dry with Eastwood. He hasn’t made a good movie worth a damn since Gran Torino ten years ago, and his seven films since then have ranged from mediocre to mixed bags. I yearn for the man who brought us Unforgiven, Mystic River, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Million Dollar Baby, but he sadly has left us to just rant about “kids these days” instead. I hate to do this to him, I really do, but this was not a movie. Any odd film student would have been flunked out of class for something like this, and I’m not going to give Eastwood’s entire filmography cloud my judgment either. I hate this film, it’s an absolute waste of time so…


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