Please Follow us on Twitter/Facebook to receive latest news

The 15:17 to Paris Movie Review (2018)

Posted 2018/02/08 3 0

On August 21, 2015, three Americans traveling through Europe together subdued a terrorist who tried to kill passengers on the Thalys train #9364 bound for Paris. The men were Airman First Class Spencer Stone, Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and college student Anthony Sadler, and they’d been friends since childhood. The gunman, a Morrocan named Ayoub El Khazzani, exited a washroom strapped with weapons, wrestled with a couple of would-be heroes, and shot one of them in the neck with a pistol. Stone sprang into action, tackling Khazzani and trapping him in a choke hold while being repeatedly sliced with a knife. Stone’s two friends plus Chris Norman, a 62-year-old British businessman living in France, hit Khazzani with their fists and with the butts of firearms that he’d dropped into the struggle until he finally lost consciousness. Then they kept the shooting victim alive until the train was able to stop and let police and emergency medical technicians onboard. For their bravery, Norman, Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone were made Knights of the Legion of Honour by French president François Hollande, and given awards, parades, and talk show appearances back home. 

Advertisement

As Hollywood film fodder, this is—or should have been—a slam dunk, even for a director who insisted on having the three Americans play themselves, which is the case here. To call Clint Eastwood’s “The 15:17 to Paris” a mixed bag would be generous. It’s more like an oil tanker full of styrofoam packing peanuts with a halfway decent watch at the bottom, plus a few loose M&M candies and sticks of Juicy Fruit gum. The movie is surprising in the best and worst way: best, in that it packs all the wild action you came to see into a 20-minute stretch near the end, and elsewhere gives us something like a platonic buddy version of Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy, which is not what anyone could’ve anticipated; worst, in that seeing this trio re-enact their European vacation is, for the most part, about as absorbing as watching a dear friend’s video footage of a trip you didn’t go on.

As cinematographer Tom Stern’s camera hangs close-but-not-too-close, Sadler, Stone and Skarlatos travel from Rome and Venice to Berlin and Amsterdam, crack jokes about old buildings and sculptures, order food and drink in restaurants, and get liquored up in a nightclub and manage not to look into the camera by accident. You feel like you’re right there with them. This is an eerie and astonishing feeling when they’re re-enacting the train incident, but not when they’re ordering food or taking selfies.

There’s a long tradition of real people starring in films about their lives, from Pancho Villa and Jackie Robinson to Muhammad Ali and Howard Stern. World War II Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy went straight into acting with help from a famous admirer, James Cagney; played himself in 1955’s “To Hell and Back,” based on his same-titled memoir, and died 21 years later with 50 screen credits. There haven’t been too many instances where audiences looked at these performances and though, “Wow, what a great actor—they missed their true calling.” But if the nonprofessional seems relatively comfortable onscreen and lets a bit of personality come through, the film can work, sort of, and the performance, such as it is, might be likable. Or at least not painful.

Advertisement

It gives me great pleasure to report that not only are these three guys less than terrible in their big screen debuts, they’re kind of charming, once you decide to make peace with the fact that Eastwood has traded the depth and nuance that a professional actor can bring for the unpredictable freshness you can only get from casting newcomers. Stone is an unexpectedly arresting screen presence: a towering, broad-shouldered, lethal goofball with a comic book henchman’s jawline and a bubbly yet faintly anxious manner of speaking. There are moments when his rat-a-tat delivery, practically tripping over his own words, suggests an unholy fusion of Drew Carey and young Gary Busey. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him wind up on a sitcom opposite Tim Allen or Kevin James. The other two seem to have been granted screen time in proportion to their not-terribleness. We get a lot of Stone with Sadler, who’s not a particularly deep actor, to put it mildly, but is disarmingly natural and has a great rapport with his pal. Skarlatos, a handsome but wooden nice guy, is kept mostly offscreen until he joins the others. 

But no matter what you think of these men as movie stars, their performances are the least of the film’s problems. A good 70% of “The 15:17 to Paris” is almost inert, its affable nothingness redeemed only by the laid-back charisma of three men who once again find themselves in an extraordinary circumstances and have no choice but to rise to the occasion.

The film starts with a flashback to the trio’s childhood, with Jenna Fischer and Judy Greer as Skarlatos and Stone’s mothers, that promises an American Fighting Man Epic in the vein of “Sergeant York” or “Hacksaw Ridge.” But these scenes fall almost entirely flat, with character traits being more described instead of dramatized. The scene where the moms argue with a snotty administrator who tries to diagnose Stone with ADHD diagnosis while dissing them for being single mothers might be the worst five minutes Eastwood has ever put onscreen, but it has plenty of competition here. How Eastwood managed to get worse performances out of the professional child actors playing the young heroes than he did from the adult versions who’d never acted before is a mystery that only another director can properly unravel. Ace character actors Tony Hale and Thomas Lennon are wasted as, respectively, the school’s principal and gym coach. Jaleel White is given just one forgettable scene to convince us that he’s a great teacher who inspired the boys’ interest in history; it lasts about 60 seconds and ends with him handing them a manila folder full of maps. The moms mention God occasionally, but usually in stilted way, and their families’ spiritual lives aren’t examined in any detail (though there are a couple of prayers in the film, which is rare for a Hollywood movie).

The screenplay, adapted by Dorothy Blyskal from a book co-written by the trio plus Jeffrey E. Stern, is often painfully awkward and obvious. Earnest discussions of fate and destiny are shoehorned into shallow but generally likeable (and seemingly improvised) scenes of the guys talking to each other and to various eccentrics they meet during their journey. A couple of the latter are so odd that they verge on sublime, like the long moment when an eager old man at a bar talks them into going to Amsterdam by recounting the illicit good time he just had there.

Advertisement

But for the most part, “The 15:17 to Paris” is a study in misplaced priorities. While the re-enactment of the incident on the train is superb—Eastwood has always had a flair for staging unfussy but shockingly brutal screen violence—I’d have happily traded the lead-up hour of marshmallow fluff for scenes that showed what happened to the guys once they got back and were treated like gods on earth (though, in fairness, Eastwood might’ve figured he already told that story in “Flags of Our Fathers”). And there are some groaner choices, like the way Eastwood keeps the terrorist literally faceless during his first few flashback appearances, by focusing on his hands, his feet, his knapsack and wheeled suitcase, and the back of his neck; his refusal to age Fischer and Greer for their scenes opposite their now-grownup sons, which makes it seem as if they had them when they were 12; and the near-total omission of Sadler’s parents from the narrative, which inadvertently turns a co-equal lead character into The Black Friend.

I’ve read that Eastwood asked the French government if he could get Khazzani to play himself, too, but was told no. Is this why he portrayed him as a non-person, just another Bad Thing happening to Good People? I wanted to know how Khazzani ended up on that train as well—not because he deserves any sympathy, but because his is also a tale of social conditioning and sheer willpower, and might have reflected off the main trio’s story in  illuminating ways. (For an example of how to do this in a thoughtful, responsible manner, see Anurag Kashyap’s 2007 film “Black Friday.”) Eastwood has become increasingly uninterested in that sort of complexity, despite having devoted the first 20-plus years of his directing career to letting us see the evil in good people and the good in the evil people.

While there’s something innately inspiring about Eastwood continuing to crank out films 48 years into his filmmaking career, there’s a downside: his batting average has never been great, and his game has slipped a lot since the double hit of “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima.” There are intriguing aspects to nearly all of his films, but he’s only made maybe six or seven that are outstanding from start to finish, and in the last 20 years, even his good work has included a lot of ill-considered, amateurish or flat-out baffling elements, like the screechingly caricatured parents in “Million Dollar Baby,” and Chris Kyle doting on an obviously fake infant in “American Sniper.” Eastwood is famous for working fast and bringing his movies in on time and under budget, and “The 15:17 to Paris” is another example of that legendary efficiency: supposedly he decided to tell the trio’s story after giving them a Spike TV Guys’ Choice Award just 19 months ago. But breeziness is not, in itself, an unassailable virtue. There hasn’t been a single Eastwood film since “Unforgiven” that couldn’t have benefited from several rounds of script rewrites, plus a few trusted advisors with the nerve to tell him that a particular choice is ill-advised. (I know, I know—who wants to tell Clint Eastwood he’s wrong? Nobody who’s seen him use a hickory stick in “Pale Rider,” for starters.)

Advertisement

The movie’s greatest virtue, which may be enough to make it a critic-proof hit no matter what, is its total sincerity. This extends to faithfully reproducing a Red State worldview that was also showcased in “American Sniper” and “Sully.” A lot of U.S. moviegoers are going to feel seen by this movie, and that’s a net gain for American cinema, which is supposed to be a populist art form representing the body politic as it is, not merely as the film industry wishes it could be. If only someone could’ve heroically intervened to save this movie.

Source link

Hot Article

Point Break (2015)

News

Posted 2017/12/07

Lady Bird (2017)

News

Posted 2017/12/06

Where to Invade Next (2015)

News

Posted 2017/12/07

LBJ 2017 (Article + Full Movie)

News

Posted 2017/12/06

Top Best Hacking Movies

News

Posted 2017/12/11

I, Tonya 2017 (Article + Full Movie)

News

Posted 2017/12/10

Top 4 Mind Opening and Quality Movies

News

Posted 2017/12/16