Film Review: The 15:17 to Paris (2018)

2018 in Cinema:

The 15:17 to Paris, 2018

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer, Ray Corasani

 

Based on the real-life incident on a train in Paris, where a terrorist was apprehended by three people on holiday, preventing what could have been a major incident, The 15:17 to Paris has a uniqueness to it in that its main three characters are played by the actual three have-a-go heroes that stopped the would-be terrorist. That, coupled with Clint Eastwood’s name on the director’s chair, will be enough to drive butts into seats for this film; however, it is not one of Eastwood’s finest films. The 15:17 to Paris’ plot tells the lives of the three have-a-go heroes: Anthony Sadler (Anthony Sadler), Alek Skarlatos (Alek Skarlatos) and Spencer Stone (Spencer Stone) as they meet as children before growing up with their ambitions, two of whom join the forces, and ultimately go back-packing around Europe, which leads them onto the train.

Firstly, it must be commendable that they decided to use the real heroes to play themselves: when I watched The Mercy, which also debuted this week in the UK, it can easily take you out of the realism the film is trying to portray by having such a popular actor, such as Colin Firth, playing the titular role, but seeing these three made it that much more real, and especially the incident on the train because they really did that, and that helped me be invested more into the action. However, on the flip-side to that, it was noticeable that they weren’t professionally trained actors. And one thing which must be complimented is how they integrate the train attack early on through the boys’ lives. We cut briefly from time-to-time from whatever the three boys are doing to watch the very early build-up of action on the train before they reach Alek, Spencer and Anthony’s cart. Cutting from three boys in detention to a man on a train who’s noticed a passenger has been in the bathroom for a long time, the next time we cut he leaves the bathroom with his guns, the next time it’s people running scared; each quick cut reminds us that the train incident is where we’re heading and it builds up nicely.

That is, unfortunately, where any praise should end. As aforementioned, it’s noticeable that these three are not professionally trained actors, as they expressions and demeanour gives it away, but they’re unfortunately not afforded much of an opportunity to try and make a success of it in this film as Dorothy Blyskal’s script has to be one of the worst scripts I’ve ever heard in my life. I’d noted it myself during the film, but I was amazed to see The Atlantic make the similar assessment: ‘I’m pretty sure the drama I watched was made by Tommy Wiseau’ (Tommy Wiseau wote the screenplay for The Room). It is so basic that I’m baffled as to how Clint Eastwood accepted it; one character will say they’re hungry and we immediately cut to them eating. Next scene they’re drinking alcohol and we immediately cut to them hungover in bed. Spencer says they have to leave as it’s nearly midday and they’re immediately in a café. Once or twice you can get away with but when your cuts are driven by a character simply saying he wants to go somewhere and you go there, it screams a poor screenplay. And it also doesn’t even afford the opportunity for the girls we meet along the way to be waved off. Spencer and Anthony meet an American girl in Italy and spend a good chunk of their time there with her, while Alek is in Germany with what seems to be a possible-girlfriend, but one random man tells them they should visit Amsterdam and we’re immediately in an Amsterdam nightclub and those two girls are never mentioned again. The story built them as important to their trip and they’re just washed away without a mention (just like the breast cancer announcement and the drug deal in The Room). As a writer and a lover of film, I am absolutely appalled by a film with this back story and Clint Eastwood having such an awful, awful script behind it.

They also don’t spend near enough time on the actual train. Yes, the early quick cuts to the train’s event were nice and helped build the story, but the action inside the cart where our three heroes are is over in about a minute. There’s no drama or tension, it just . . . ends. Most of the film, though, is spent on Spencer’s life. Now, I completely agree that this is a story that needs telling (them on the train, that is), but this is an issue I have with true stories: Spencer’s life isn’t that entertaining. He is a slightly troubled kid who gains a lot of weight, loses it to join the forces (after every single piece of dialogue leading up to that point was him obsessing with wars or the forces or saving lives), gets rejected for one job, gets kicked out of another job before settling in to a job that provides him the techniques he uses on the train. Then he goes back-packing around Europe where they take selfies and eat and eat and eat and eat before drinking alcohol then eating again. That’s not an entertaining story to tell for well over an hour. He’s a hero, no question, but his life, to be told in a story, is boring.

I had high hopes for this film, even though I dislike films based on true stories seeing Clint Eastwood’s name on the director’s chair gave me faith that it would prove an entertaining film, but be it laziness, the script or just that Clint didn’t care all that much about this project, it has turned out to be a rather miserable and disappointing mess.

 

Plot: * *     Acting: * *     Writing: *     Presentation: * *

Overall Rating: * ¾

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