The 15:17 to Paris Review: Starts strong, but goes off the rails soon
The film has all the mark of an Eastwood directorial but it has to rank among the worst to come out of his stable
For an actor who generally embraced machoism in his roles, Clint Eastwood, the director, remains poignantly humane. His choice of stories are distinctly grounded, and are centered on the kindness of humans, who are also often philosophical. The 15:17 to Paris has all the mark of an Eastwood directorial including what has now come to be associated as a staple -- a patriotic story based on true events. The film however never really lands like Sully or finds its mark like American Sniper.
Cast: Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone
Director: Clint Eastwood
Eastwood takes the bold step of casting real-life heroes, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone, to play themselves in the film about their heroics in a train heading from Amsterdam to Paris. Spencer Stone in particular stands out and and could be the single biggest positive to emerge from the film. Anthony Sadler is underwhelming but there is a charisma he brings to the screen, while Alek Skarlatos is just... wooden.
If you do not know the story before you go watch the film, the first hour of its 94 minute runtime serves as a wonderful buildup as Eastwood places all characters like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that when assembled give you a certain satisfaction. The backstory of these three youngsters is that they grow up in Sacramento, California, and bond together in a Christian school that does not cut them any slack and keeps punishing them. Alek and Spencer grow up with single moms and are diagnosed with ADD. The kids play together dressed in camo, have posters of army films like Full Metal Jacket, and when they grow up, Alek and Spencer join the army in two diffferent camps They remain in touch with Anthony over Skype and decide to take a backpacking tour of Europe because that is the one time they believe they will have together before Spencer is given his commission and sent away on tours.
The problem is some of these threads are just left hanging in the air, while the ones that combine together for the final payoff seem rather contrived. The final payoff in itself is completely underwhelming and the soaring music does not really help give the film any emotional heft or infuse patriotism.
During one particular scene, when Spencer is being chided by his instructor during his training for the Airforce pararescue division, she says that for an injury to the neck, "A tourniquet to the neck is a noose. Say a prayer and just hope something creative will occur." This has to rank among the worst to come out of the directorial stable of Eastwood and I said a prayer to the cinema gods and really hoped that something more creative will come from him the next time around.