Review written by David Malone and Ethan Collins.
Runtime: 94 Minutes
Directed by Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino)
Written by Dorothy Blyskal (Logan, Fist Fight)
Cinematography by Tom Stern (The Hunger Games, Mystic River)
Music by Christian Jacob (The Sting Variations), Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption, Road to Perdition)
Produced by Clint Eastwood, Jessica Meier (American Sniper, Spider-Man 2), Tim Moore (In the Land of Blood and Honey, Need for Speed), Kristina Rivera (J. Edgar, Sully)
Starring Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, Judy Greer (Ant-Man, Jurassic World), Jenna Fischer (The Office, The Giant Mechanical Man), Ray Corasani (The Long Road Home, Goliath), Thomas Lennon (A Futile and Stupid Gesture, Night at the Museum)
If you hold Clint Eastwood in high esteem as a film director and producer, you might want to steer clear of The 15:17 to Paris. We both love Eastwood as an actor, playing roles such as “The Man With No Name”, Josey Wales, and “Dirty” Harry Callahan, but we think that he is an even better movie director. Because of our admiration for Eastwood, reviewing this film was difficult because it was nothing like any other movie he has directed. To put it bluntly, the film’s script, pacing, and cinematography were all a far cry from any of Eastwood’s prior work. This was Dorothy Blyskal’s debut, screenwriting effort for a movie and it is atrocious, or, certainly, the way it’s adapted to the screen is atrocious. Let’s just hope that this is the last time Eastwood decides to collaborate with Blyskal, or she gets markedly better. For a movie to truly be good or even to be considered great, it must have great directorship, acting, and story at the very minimum. Unfortunately, The 15:17 to Paris didn’t meet our expectations in these areas.
The biggest question we asked ourselves and had us wringing our hands was: “Why?” Why would Clint Eastwood, director of Unforgiven, Mystic River, and Gran Torino, come within shouting distance of this utter piece of garbage that somehow passed as a movie script? He has even proven himself adept at telling true stories in recent years, with masterful work on Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, American Sniper, and Sully. Always, Eastwood’s other films were not only well directed, but were also well written, so The 15:17 to Paris had a jarringly negative effect on our estimation of Eastwood’s judgment.
This movie should have been called The Best of Intentions, because everyone involved here had them. You can tell Eastwood and screenwriter Blyskal respect and admire the men on display here, and Eastwood seems to have a passion for telling their story, as little cinematic value as that story may hold. Appreciatively, Eastwood and Blyskal tried to be respectful to the conservative, Christian characters temporarily in its story, portraying them in one of the more unbiased, non-commentating ways seen in recent mainstream films, even though a few of the characters, especially early on, are overtly Christian. As for other positives about The 15:17 to Paris, there are a few character actors and actresses, including Jenna Fischer and Thomas Lennon, that turn in quick but good performances. Some moments in the film do show Eastwood’s steady directorial hand as few bits of the character development decently allow us to get to know these guys a little, and we like the way the camera moves with its subjects sometimes. However, that’s where the positives end.
Oh, wait, we have one more positive. This movie is mercifully short. At 94 minutes long, we could get up and walk out of the theater without wondering if we’d missed anything.
To further explain our disdain for the film’s script, there were very few moments that seemed natural between the characters. We’re not being critical of Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, or Alek Skarlatos, because they’re not professional actors, and neither of us expected an Oscar-worthy performance from any of them. We’re being strictly critical of the awkward, forced, and even sometimes unnecessary verbal exchanges among the characters. It’s hard to pick out only a few, cringe-worthy exchanges, but we’ve decided to share a few.
First, listening to Spencer’s and Anthony’s sport’s analysis while they’re watching a college football game was absolutely terrible. Everyone is an armchair quarterback when it comes to breaking down football, but their analysis was diluted to “that’s a good play” and “oh, we need to win this one” – not something you’d expect to hear from a major motion picture. Second, the Skype sessions between Spencer and Anthony and then between Spencer and Alek were forced and worse than real life discussions on Skype. We’re not even joking here. And why were we subjected to both sessions in succession; we couldn’t have a breather? Third, Anthony commenting: “That’s good wine.” During the movie’s obnoxious, 15 minute detour showing the guys’ stay in Venice, which added absolutely nothing to the film’s plot, we see them drinking wine after dinner. After they take a sip and seem to be enjoying it, Anthony annoyingly says: “That’s good wine.” No kidding, we could tell based off of your facial expression.
The wine tasting wasn’t the only occasion we were explained details verbally when visuals were plenty to guide us along. Because of the total absurdity we witnessed many times watching the film, we couldn’t help but laugh. Thankfully, we were in the back row of the theatre with only four others, so hopefully we weren’t too disruptive.
(Not actual footage of us laughing)
There are other problems too. The cinematography style, while sometimes good from veteran Tom Stern, changes throughout the film without any apparent rhyme or reason, and it even seems like they are changing camera types occasionally. Also, the end award scene splices real footage with the movie, and it just come across tacky and lazy. The editing, too, can’t stay consistent to save its life, and often leaves in way too much, especially moments where you can see the inexperienced actors break character or simply moments of too much lingering. The score doesn’t help things either. When it’s present, it’s either extremely generic or sometimes almost at odds with the scene, and it’s actually often completely missing from the film for unusually long stretches.
It’s unfortunate that our first negative collaboration has to be a Clint Eastwood movie, but that’s just the way it is. In our opinion, Eastwood is one of the finest directors to ever work in Hollywood, and he has made many an excellent film, but The 15:17 to Paris is, we think, Eastwood’s worst film.
We’re going to give The 15:17 to Paris a 33%.