Sunday, 11 February 2018

The 15.17 To Paris

Clint Eastwood has been directing films for 47 years now. He started in 1971 with Play Misty For Me and as expected of a career that long he's been pretty prolific. There's been a few honest to god masterpieces like The Outlaw Josey Wales, Bird, Unforgiven and A Perfect World. A lot of dross like Space Cowboys, The Rookie and The Eiger Sanction and then plenty of what could only be described as meh movies. The 15.17 To Paris is one of those.

On the 21st of August 2015 a terrorist called Ayoub El Khazzani boarded a train from Amsterdam to Paris pulled out an automatic rifle and went to open fire in a train carriage. On that same train carriage were 3 American tourists in the last stage of a European backpacking holiday, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler. Stone and Skarlatos were off duty soldiers. Guess what happened next.

It doesn't sound like enough for a movie does it? To combat that Eastwood goes back in time and tells the story of these men from their first childhood meeting until that faithful summer day. Here's where he adds a unique twist to the movie. The men play themselves as adults. Sounds cool right. Yes in theory it does but in practice it's pretty painful. These blokes are no actors and that combined with some horribly cliched and painfully earnest dialogue ( "Do you ever felt like life is pushing us towards some greater purpose?" ugh) kind of kills the film in it's tracks. That said there are moments where their natural chemistry works but it's only tiny flashes. Any time a bit of emoting is required your eyes will roll up into your head.

It's a film with a strange political stance too. There's one very pointed dig at America's self appointed protector of the world stance but mostly it's a love letter to the military. Spencer's training is shown in detail and everything, and I mean everything he learns comes in handy later in life. Alek's time at war in the middle east is shown but strangely skipped over and Anthony, the civilian of the bunch gets no back story at all. None. We don't even see his family unlike the other two who's mothers we meet ( played by Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer, totally wasted ) Anthony was African American too and I'm trying my hardest not to think about the undertones there. And as for Ayoub El Khazzani? Nothing, not a jot of motivation or even a name. It would have been good to see his story parallel to the others. To see the way he grew up in and maybe get an insight into what makes a man do what he did. A wasted opportunity right there. But speaking of him.

The climax of the film, the attack itself is well done. It's tense, clearly shot, doesn't resort to rapid action movie style cutting to build any kind of fake excitement. This is where Eastwood's experience shines through. He unfussily and bluntly gets across the impact of the violence on all parties involved. It's rough and realistic and very unHollywood. But a small 10 minute section doesn't make a film.

I get the reasoning behind using the real blokes to play themselves but it sucks the life right out of the film. The original choices were the actors Kyle Gallner, Jeremie Harris and Alexander Ludwig and they would have been a better choice. Ludwig especially as he's a dead ringer for Spencer Stone. But this is Clint's film. Clint gets to do what he wants and it's a pity he's spending his latter years on films like this.

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