Director: Clint Eastwood.
Back on August the 21st, 2015 three young Americans board a Thalys high speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris whilst on their sightseeing tour across Europe. Little did they know that a would-be terrorist (or armed-robber as the defence attorney claimed) would attempt to do serious harm armed with an AKM assault rifle. The three men, acting promptly on instinct managed to intervene and foil the attack saving the lives of many including their own and as a result received France’s highest decoration of the Legion of Honour; as well as some serious injuries.
fast forward a year later, a novelisation of the incident is written as a memoir by the three heroes with the help of journalist, Jeffrey E. Stern, published “The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes” which is what this film is based on, with production starting in mid 2017.
It’s Clint Eastwood’s 36th film and being fully aware of both his directorial talents (Mystic River being my personal favourite) and the story, I was looking forward to seeing this but had wondered why it was lacking the usual hype. It wasn’t until I watched the film did I realise that Eastwood had made a bold and daring decision of having the actual heroes casted to play themselves.
It tells the story behind the three childhood friends, two of which served in the US armed forces. Spencer Stone, a former medic for the US Air Force, Alek Skarlatos, a soldier from the US national guard and civilian Anthony Sadler. Going back to their juniority and reciting how they each met and became life long friends, leading right up to the incident.
It’s daring and risky move on Eastwood’s part for having the actual heroes of the story play their own parts. Ultimately, it’s this decision that ruins the entire film, giving it a poor amateurish finish to what is, a well directed film. You only get to really appreciate Eastwood’s work at the riveting and climatic finale. I actually had to check if it was the Clint Eastwood I knew and not some other director using his name. Think there could have been a better structure being more of a documentary as oppose to an reenactment
This unprecedented casting decision can be quite annoying at times and I wonder how long they took with filming their scenes, if Eastwood knew how terrible the acting was and if he just decided to run with it regardless or had there been some difficult moments during shooting. It’s blatantly obvious they’re not actors and if viewer walk in unknowingly to this decision, they maybe very shocked or overwhelmed with disappointment as I was. It’s certainly not an audition or gateway for the heroes to make their way into Hollywood.
The acting doesn’t deliver the necessary punch to connect with the audience and sadly it becomes annoying and frustrating most of the time. Maybe a documentary structure would have worked better as for this, the lack of talent just distracts viewers from Eastwood’s actual talent. I suppose we all strive for authenticity, but this is where a dramatic script would have worked as oppose to having the heroes play out their normal conversations. It’s a shame because the story warrants being told, but maybe if marketed and titled differently, given a proper cast and a tweaked script, this would have been a good film.
It’s a grand tribute to all involved, in particular the three young Americans and including the Moogalian couple; but sadly it comes off as nothing more than a gesture or an over elaborated crimewatch reenactment.
Running Time: 4
The Cast: 0
Job Description: 1
The Extra Bonus Point: 0