In his latest film, “15:17 to Paris,” Clint Eastwood has his famous no-nonsense film further than ever before. After all forfeited many of the typical accoutrements of Hollywood movie- long development, a battery, a handwringing — he has, with characteristic bit of anxiety thrown overboard actors from the picture. Who has ’em, right?
The truth be told, there are many professional actors in “The 15:17 to Paris,” about the foiled terrorist attack on a 2015 Paris-bound train. But the central characters, and even many of the extras, are played by themselves. The film, simple and straightforward, is derived from the most of its appeal from the verisimilitude of his distinctly un-Hollywood-ness.
That is enough to make “The 15:17 in Paris” is a refreshingly modest artifact in the often bombastic genre of terrorism thrillers. But it is not the quality of the acting that borders Eastwood’s film. It’s a hackneyed script that’s not too much of a story to tell behind the headlines of how an Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, U. S. Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone and their friend Anthony Sadler, a student, tackled and subdued an offender, armed with an AK-47 and nearly 300 rounds of ammunition.
“15:17 Paris” follows Eastwood’s “Sully”, who also told a story of an ordinary man turned international hero. In the all too sad story of Capt. Chesley Sullenberger 2009 Hudson River landing, Eastwood focused on the trunk of an unwanted spotlight. Here, where he with enthusiasm seems to Skarlatos, Stone and Sadler, all of which look understandably excited to be in a Clint Eastwood movie.
It is completely without precedent to the release of real people, especially those with military experience. Perhaps the film business senses are soldiers have something that can’t be faked. There was Harold Russell’s Oscar-winning the second world War veteran William Wyler’s “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), the decorated Audie Murphy in 1955’s “To Hell and Back” and, more recently, in 2012, the “Act of Valor” featuring active duty Navy SEALS.
Skarlatos and Stone are far from elite troops, though. Many of The “15:17 Paris”, tells of their youth together (the three became friends in high school), their previous aspirations of joining the military, and their disappointment, not so quickly find distinction in the ranks. Skarlatos not eligible for the air force Pararescue. Stone finds himself the offer of safety — “in fact, a mall cop,” he sighs in Afghanistan.
Dorothy Blyskal the script, based on the book the trio wrote with Jeffery E. Stern, flashes through key moments in their lives, focusing mainly on Skarlatos. Judy Greer, and Jenna Fischer drop in as single mothers. There is Thomas Lennon as the head of the school, and Tony Hale as a gym teacher — a set-up worthy of a promising network sitcom, but their moments here are short.
Really, what one of them does in the movie is a bit uncertain. “15:17 in Paris” is even more out of balance once it gets to the boys backpacking through Europe ahead of the attack. As they philosophize, while taking selfies and plot their next party, Richard Linklater movie is a low risk of outbreak. “15:17 in Paris” is a short ride on 94 minutes, but it is a meandering one dotted with holes in the story and the lack of a sense of purpose. Eastwood feels less engaged with the material, content to settle for only the re-creation of a patriotic outliner in an otherwise tragic recent history of terrorism.
Maybe the story is better suited to someone like the docudrama of the expert Paul Greengrass (“United 93, “”Captain Phillips”). When the big moment comes, it is well kept and presented without the thunderous music: a restrained climax for a slow movie. But by focusing solely on the three pals, Eastwood has belittled the story of Mark Moogalian, a 51-year-old american-born Frenchman and a professor at the Sorbonne, who was one of the first to the fight the shooter. Moogalian, who in the film as himself, was shot in the neck. We get the Legion of Honor for the ceremony for three Americans, but neither the story, nor even a final word about Moogalian fate.
Context is not one of the characteristics of “15:17.” It is also satisfied with the bravery of a few Americans to make an announcement of something else. The thwarted attack came amidst a rash of terror in France. Three months later, 130 would die in coordinated suicide bombings in Paris. Eleven months later, 84 of dying in Nice when a truck drove through the crowd, celebrating the Bastille Day.
The heroes of the train fall, deserve all the praise. But the zoom a bit and it is not hard to see Eastwood’s America-centric focus in “The 15:17 Paris,” self-serving.
“15:17 to Paris,” Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for bloody images, violence, some suggestive material, drug references and language.” Running time: 94 minutes. Two stars out of four.
MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some materials may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP