Interesting concept, poor execution: Clint Eastwood’s The 15.17 to Paris

The 15.17 to Paris is director Clint Eastwood’s latest project about the terrorist attack that took place on the Thalys train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris in 2015.

The events of that day are well known: 25 year old Moroccan, El-Khazzany, tried to put in act a terrorist attack that could have resulted in the killing of more than 300 hundred people. The tragedy was avoided only thanks to the bravery of three American passengers, Stone, Sadler and Skarlatos (Stone and Skarlatos were actually members of the US Armed Forces), and Englishman Chris Norman, who managed to disarm and immobilize El-Khazzany.

In his now long-certified obsession of glorifying ‘real life heroes’, Eastwood manages to deliver yet another Hail America film that capitalizes on western audience’s need for this kind of stories. Strong of his reputation and previous box office success’ movies, like American Sniper and Sully, Eastwood lazily draws out a story that is neither emotional nor captivating. There is no in-depth characterization or strong structural background that can help sustain a movie that literally doesn’t go anywhere. Flashbacks are introduced to make you care about the protagonists and build up some retrospective on the event, but they are just as dull and worthless as the movie is. The main problem is that we already know how the story unfolds, so probably Eastwood should have spent a little bit more time on characterization, in order to create at least a compelling narrative.

Eastwood’s escamotage has fallen short of its actual potential, giving us just so many cringe-worthy lines as we can take.

By failing to do so, all we got is a numb, boring and unemotional trainwreck, that does not reach its goal. The movie manages to find some rhythm (and, perhaps, some purpose?) only in the final twenty minutes, when we get thrown in the midst of the terrorist attack. To be wishing for some action in a movie about terrorism definitely does not make anyone look good.

The only interesting thing about this film is that the actual people who were involved in the terrorist act were enlisted to play themselves in the movie. There’s not a heavy-trained Bradley Cooper to charm his way out of the Gulf war this time. Method acting, the good old Stanislavski’s system, apparently is dead. The real Skarlatos, Stone and Sadler walk before our eyes, enacting their life, blurring the line between fiction and reality and posing the problem of whatever having so much control over your own story is actually a value. From what I can tell, I think this movie fails precisely for the lack of pathos and screen presence shown by the characters. Eastwood’s escamotage has fallen short of its actual potential, giving us just so many cringe-worthy lines as we can take and taking away from the movie the possibility of being a conscious tale, with a message or at least a scope.

There is no redemption or light spot in the 15.17 to Paris, as the movie leaves its audience with a disturbing feeling of heroic grandiosity and complete dullness in this overly-act American self-celebration.

Camilla Marotta

(Image courtesy of Allstar/Warner Bros)