STARS: Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, Alex Skarlatos, Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer
DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood
We're all familiar with the inspirational story of three young American buddies who thwarted a terrorist attack on a train from Amsterdam to Paris in 2015, saving the lives of the 500 passengers on board. In The 15:17 To Paris, director Clint Eastwood brings the story to the big screen in a way that no one else likely would have dared--he got the real heroes to portray themselves. The film is peppered with teaser shots of the intense and masterfully done climactic scene in order to tide us over through the somewhat bland but not uninteresting backstory of their lives.
Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone is singled out to be the fully developed character, ostensibly because he had the biggest--or at least the bloodiest--role in subduing the heavily armed bad guy. We follow Spencer from the schoolyard (he was something of a rebel) through Air Force basic training, and much of the first half of the film plays like a recruitment video for the military. But to Eastman's credit, he's not jingoistic about it. No veiled jabs at Muslims. He's telling a story and everything in the story speaks for itself.
Eastwood's bold, and as it turns out, brilliant move in casting the real heroes as themselves has likely created more buzz for the film than anything else. For me, the curiosity factor of how these non actors would do was the major reason I wanted to see it---that and the fact that it's a totally compelling story.
Eastwood used non actors before in Gran Torino, with some embarrassing results, and I was hoping that these guys could raise that bar at least a bit. No problema. They're not going to win any Oscars, but their chemistry together is quite literally the real thing. It helps that they are affable guys...the kind you'd bring home to mom (or mom might bring home after a night out at the beer joint).
The three of them end up backpacking through Europe together. We're treated to panoramic views of Venice, and the introduction of a comely American girl who decides to tag along with them. If only they could have come up with something more authentically Italian than "Volare" to be playing in the background. That's like going to a French restaurant and ordering a cheeseburger, but then The 15:17 To Paris is tailored to heartland American tastes. Ah, but just when you start thinkin' it's gonna be goody-two-shoes all the way, they throw in a sexy, let-it-loose disco scene with some unmistakably European babes shakin' their booty!
Stone has premonitions, and the theme of fate has something big in store for us is played up throughout. The train rumbles toward Paris as the film proceeds toward its inexorable climax, the scene we've all been waiting for. The ten minute terrorist take-down sequence, filmed in real time is riveting, soul-stirring cinema at its best. Well worth the wait. And at just over an hour and a half in duration, The 15:17 To Paris doesn't take an interminably long time to get you there.
Grade: B +
OMG. I can't believe two reasonably intelligent, visually savvy people could differ so wildly. But this is one case where I couldn't disagree more with Tim's assessment of Eastwood's latest faux film. I think he chose to cast the real guys because he realized that, without them, there was no story. (I hate to tell you, Clint, but there still was no story!) Yes, there was an incident on a train that was, indeed, brave and heroic. But since everybody in the audience knew that from the get-go, building a movie around it—with three basically bland characters to work with—was a challenge that would've had even Willie Shakespeare pulling his hair out.
Of the three non actors, I felt Anthony Sadler was by far the most authentic. I had to laugh at the striking physical resemblance between non actor Alek Skarlatos and actor Scott Eastwood. (I'll just bet he was furious that his dad didn't cast him in the role!)
The only redeemable thing in this paean to patroitism was the score which I was certain Clint Eastwood had composed himself. I was shocked to find that Christian Jacob scored the film. (He also composed the score for Sully so he's good at disaster-avoidance flicks.) But one cheap musical shot I just have to point out was a scene in Germany, where the tour guide corrects our third hero Spencer Stone about where Hitler and Eva Braun are buried. As he cycles away, he sings "Springtime for Hitler In Germany...." A song fromThe Producers that was totally out of place. (But Mel Brooks must have been pleased.)
Save your money!