I’m having trouble comprehending what the hell just happened, I like Clint Eastwood, both as an actor and as a filmmaker, even regarding some of his less popular stuff, I actually liked J. Edgar for example, I thought Jersey Boys was good fun and I disagree that American Sniper is nothing if not obnoxious propaganda. He’s got a smooth visual aesthetic to go along with his noble intentions when approaching a new work and I get excited every time he has a new film coming out; if you ask me – Clint’s still got it. This is also a true story that very much deserves a film about it, these guys who tackled down a wannabe mass murderer and saved many lives are undoubtedly heroes who deserve all the respect in the world, this film should have and could have been awesome given the ingredients at hand here. But not only was it not even good, I regret to say that The 15:17 To Paris is in fact… a terrible movie.
If there was one thing that concerned me before its release, it was Eastwood’s decision to cast the real life guys, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, as themselves, that’s something that has worked very well in the past like when Paul Greengrass made United 93 and cast Ben Sliney as himself. He ended up doing a great job but that was different to The 15:17 To Paris because he wasn’t reciting any lines or even really acting for that matter, United 93 was made without a traditional script in order to achieve maximum realism so Sliney merely had to do his job on camera the way he did on 9/11, making it somewhat different to a performance; he was just doing his thing.
I wanted to stay optimistic though, if Clint’s made the decision to cast them as themselves – sure, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, I wasn’t there on set, for all I knew they rocked it… I’m sorry to say they didn’t. The 15:17 To Paris has a script and dialogue to be voiced and the non actors here just don’t have the chops, they’re not God awful, they’re just not believable and that’s a shame, these guys are heroes but here I am telling them they aren’t that good at acting; I feel like I’m being unfair. But I don’t want to put all the blame on their shoulders because the reasons I think this movie is RUBBISH would still be there whether they gave good performances or not.
The dialogue is horrendous, bitterly synthetic and fake sounding to the point where you start to wonder if the screen writer has ever seen a movie before; or rather has only ever seen movies without any real life experience. Everyone keeps spouting words like “bro”, “man”, “y’know” and “whoa” and it really comes across as obnoxious, when there is talk of God’s part to play in destiny, in the same nonchalant manner as deciding what to have for dinner, I starting wishing I was a tortoise so I could retreat into my shell as the humiliating cringe just became too much.
Now I know what you’re thinking, could it be possible that the inexperienced non-actors were just failing to pass it all off as believable? That would be a reasonable question if the actual professional actors populating the film were much better but, strangely enough, they’re the worst of the lot! Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler are all Daniel Day Lewis compared to the child actors portraying them in their youth, when these kids turn up and start trying to spout dialogue I became struck with horror and disbelief at how truly hideous their performances were. I struggled not to shut my eyes out of embarrassment and start wishing I were anywhere else, they’re bad – they’re unbelievably, unfathomably bad to the point where the film is almost worth recommending just so you can see for yourself; sorry kids but better luck next time.
The event on the train is relatively well handled but the scenes leading up to it, my word, they just go on and on and on, it’s quite clear during these stretched out segments that they are struggling to turn this singular happening into a full length film. Most of it deals with their childhood, then military experience, then their friendship as grownups but it’s still not enough to cover a whole movie so a lot of time is dedicated to them Skyping, talking about going on holiday, going on said holiday, taking photos, talking to girls, drinking, partying, chatting about destiny and whether or not life is pushing them towards something great (*gag*) literally anything that can push them to feature length.
I’ll give it this; it did make me want to go on holiday myself, so… there’s something… I suppose. I’m sorry but The 15:17 To Paris is badly acted across the board, the script was in dire need of a fresh perspective, the editing often feels like it’s struggling to fit around the performances, the story telling is wrong headed and amateurish, the pacing has been mistaken for Stretch Armstrong and treated as such, the good intentions are there, the cinematography has some pretty good bits but what’s bad is so bad that I struggled to even look. That’s the worst thing that can happen, when the acting and dialogue is so bad that I’m too embarrassed to watch.
These guys deserve better, the story deserved better, I was looking forward to this film and I’m sure Eastwood will do better next time but for now, this was a dud, a thundering, disappointing splat on the floor that had a responsibility to do well and failed – shamefully. Points for cinematography and the train attack isn’t bad at all but that’s it, everything else wasn’t just disappointing, it was full on terrible.