The 15:17 to Paris

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The first movie Clint Eastwood directed was Play Misty For Me in 1971. It was great. I loved his movies Unforgiven and Mystic River. I even enjoyed the mixed-reviewed Absolute Power.

Lately the director (who is now 88-years-old) hasn’t been impressing me. Okay, American Sniper was good, but J. Edgar, Jersey Boys, and Hereafter were bad. And just like in Hereafter, it felt like a first script where we’re watching characters meander around not doing much.

Casting the real heroes to play themselves was an interesting decision. It has been done before, though (Act of Valor six years ago used real Navy SEALs).

In case you’re not familiar with the story from 2015, three Americans were on a train in France when a terrorist attacked and was promptly beat up and detained by the guys. They also helped save the life of a passenger that was shot.

The terrorist had an AK-47 and 300 rounds of ammunition, so it’s safe to say, may lives were saved.

As bad as Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler’s acting was, part of the blame goes to first time screenwriter Dorothy Blystak. More of the blame goes to Eastwood, though. It’s ultimate him making the decisions, and aside from the actually attack, which was well done — this is one series of failures after another. Starting with the flashback that showed the guys as kids. They were awkward and unconvincing. I was wondering if a kid would have a collection of 10 fake guns, and spend time cleaning them with a rag; or when one is moving away, they salute each other. Oh, and can somebody explain to me why we never saw the African-American kids family? I didn’t even realize he had parents until the final scene when they’re awarded their medals.

The two kids mothers that are shown (Jenna Fischer and Judy Greer) also had horrible, clunky lines, and…we’re supposed to believe that the schools are filled with teachers and principals that are the bad guys, and not that these kids are trouble makers (despite the fact that they get into trouble at every school they’re at).

It’s strange because I have been bothered by Eastwood fictionalizing parts of a real story (as he did in Sully and American Sniper), but those elements also made for more interesting drama (for example in Sully, the movie made it seem like the pilot actually had multiple days wondering if he’d lose his job after being grilled mercilessly by the investigators, which never really happened). Yet since these guys don’t have interesting backstories, perhaps a movie being made about them wasn’t the way to go. Heck, maybe show a quick 5 or 10 minute backstory on each person on the train, and then show the attack. I don’t know, I’m not a filmmaker. Eastwood is, although you wonder if he was sitting in that directors chair, or perhaps that was one of those empty chairs he’s fond of talking to.

When we were leaving, my wife said, “It’s so strange because I’ve seen these guys on talk shows and they’re sweet, funny…they rib each other, and sound interesting telling this story. In the movie, though…they were awful. Their acting was so bad I felt sorry for them.”

It’s an unfocused movie that’s also boring.

This gets 1 ½ stars out of 5.

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