The 15:17 to Paris
dir Clint Eastwood
scr Dorothy Blyskal
prd Clint Eastwood, Jessica Meier, Tim Moore, Kristina Rivera
with Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer, Ray Corasani, Mark Moogalian, Cole Eichenberger, Thomas Lennon, Tony Hale, Jaleel White, PJ Byrne
release US/UK 9.Feb.18
18/US Warners 1h34
The 15:17 to Paris
Amsterdam to Paris: Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler

greer fischer lennon
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The 15:17 to Paris Oddly unstructured for a film directed by Clint Eastwood, this true drama never quite generates the momentum to build dramatic tension before its admittedly nerve-shredding key sequence. This is the story of three young Americans who thwarted a shooting spree on an Amsterdam to Paris train in 2015. But the hour of film leading to this event is both pushy and unfocused.

After growing up together in Sacramento, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler maintain their childhood bond as they go separate ways. In their 20s, they reunite to tour Europe together. Spencer has just finished an Air Force stint in Portugal when he meets Anthony in Rome. They go on to Venice, and connect in Berlin with Alek, who is on leave from military duty in Afghanistan. Then while on that fateful train, a gunman (Corasani) emerges from a scuffle and they leap into action to subdue him and tend to a wounded passenger (Moogalian).

The script is oddly out of balance. It centres mainly on Spencer, including scenes with his mother (Greer), a close friend to Alek's mother (Fischer). But Alek and Anthony remain thinly defined, with sketchy back-stories, motivations and personalities. Yes, the film has that bland tone that emerges when a filmmaker is afraid of even a hint of complexity. So these young men are never anything but heroic. They go out of their way to help strangers and never speak a cross word.

Thankfully they also have enough charisma to just about get away with playing themselves on-screen. None will win acting accolades, but they're likeable and add a scruffy natural presence to their real-life camaraderie. Oddly, Eastwood's loose direction leaves them sometimes looking rather lost. But then so do the veteran performers in the cast, none of whom can get a grip on characters who are this thinly written. Even the youngsters who play the men as young boys in an extended prologue never quite register.

After meandering around for more than an hour, the film snaps electrically into focus for the pivotal scene, which is expertly shot, played and edited. It's such a jolt of honesty that it highlights just how shallow the rest of the movie is, especially with its corny sermonising and conflicting messages. So any interesting themes simply waft away unexplored. It would be fascinating, for example, to know if these young men are still as obsessed with guns as they were as kids.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 5.Feb.18

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