Released: 9th February 2018
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Alex Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler
Reviewed By: Van Connor
In 2015, an extremist attempted to commit mass murder on a train departing Antwerp for Paris and three Americans beat the crap out of him. As narratives go, that doesn’t particularly feel like enough content to fill a Robot Chicken sketch, so it’s a rather suspicious prospect that frontman of American cinematic regency, Clint Eastwood, would so readily take the tale on for a feature length film. Very quickly, however, it becomes glaringly obvious why – for The 15:17 to Paris may well be the worst movie of 2018 so far, but it also plays like the lucid flag-waiving fever dream only an ageing and fanatical Republican could truly enjoy.
Unknown writer Dorothy Blyskal makes an impassioned case for remaining unknown – or at least would if there were any semblance of passion to be found here – with a screenplay best described as human behaviour mimicked through a sensory-deprivation tank. With dialogue as rusty and immobile as “I’m filled with a deep sense of foreboding about you going off to war” boring its audience to tears, and Eastwood’s phoned-in sense of verité providing more than a nudge toward a faint snooze.
These are mere garnishes, however, on the true anchor pulling The 15:17 to Paris below the water, with that actor being made up of the frankly bewildering decision to cast the three real-life heroes as themselves in their adult years. With each of the trio turning in the kind of robotic performance that’ll make the marines in Act of Valour look like pure thespian gold in contrast, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos would be certs for next year’s Razzie awards were it not for the niggling issue that their heroics actually taking place sort of earns them a pass. Except, pass or not, The 15:17 to Paris is rubbish, and they, indeed, are rubbish in it.
To compensate for the limited “range” of his stars, Eastwood’s film casts its eye backwards in time to show us the formation of the friendship between the three – going for the junior-high bonding fun of Stranger Things, albeit with the misguided “unit, corps, God, country” sensibility of the already rather questionable American Sniper. The waters are further muddied by a bizarrely in-your-face level of anachronistic production design, asking us to believe, for example, that any child would ever enjoy Letters from Iwo Jima enough to have it’s poster on their wall… a clear half-decade before its existence. Yet, even in its childhood segments – which, I promise you, feel like having your elderly grandparent read the script for The Goonies were it written by Rush Limbaugh – it’s all symptomatic of the same core fault that rocks the rest of The 15:17 to Paris – chiefly that it’s a story of a fleeting moment of heroism being retold by the elderly for the elderly with no sense of personal context of that moment itself.
Like listening to your great uncle use the word “dude” (or, in this case, whip out the T-Mobile Sidekick – actual moment btw), The 15:17 to Paris is a tedious Fisherman’s Friend of a true story drama that aspires to be United 93 with extra stars ‘n’ stripes but instead feels like an AARP-produced Saved by the Bell: The Republican Years. Turgid, dull, uninteresting, and sporting the three worst leads of 2018 to deliver the year’s worst script to boot, The 15:17 to Paris comprises ninety-four of the least interesting minutes of Clint Eastwood’s storied career, and whilst it’s easy to wrap that with some pithy quip about it going off the rails… well, that’d involve more genuine effort than The 15:17 to Paris itself ever makes.