15:17 to Paris Movie Review
Eastwood's biopic is greeted with an oppropinquity mirroring that of a Documentary by bringing to life the effortless sentimentality of the three protagonists relationship with each other, family, and with the turmoil of adolescents. The plot coalesces around the lives of Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler all of whom have found solitude in one another in the floundering stages of growing up in junior high. The kids tote high powered air-soft guns with the same authoritative confidence as seen in Eastwood's prized badass roles as the man with no name or Harry Callahan as if taunting each other to see which one of the three were feeling lucky. Our characters hastily outgrow their youth and charm and set on their different paths, while making a point to stay in touch. The always optimistic and ready Spencer Stone joins the Air Force, the chiseled and habitual Alex Skarlatos ships off to Afghanistan as a soldier on the ground, and the outgoing Anthony Sadler is along for the ride as he meets up with his buddies on leave in breathtaking Italy.
The three observe an Italy filled with legend, nostalgia, and pop historical cliche(overflowing with trite selfies) reminding us of superior works as we scour the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, and the Castle of Sant'Angelo. In many ways Eastwood's experimental film-making in 15:17 is similar to that of the 40's Italian Neorealism movement, films that brought a powerful sense of plight and humane characters to the silver screen in masterpieces 'Bicycle Thieves', 'Rome, Open City', and 'La Strada' to name a few. These films of the Golden Age acclimated real people, not actors (no this is not a commercial for the new Chevy Malibu) who were living the problem or had been seasoned with the harshness of the everyday psyche so that in moments of astringent despair emotion would not only be detectable but felt. Such a concept was at the core of the casting for '15:17 to Paris'. Yet along the journey, you cannot help but be reminded of the grim far more humane Eastwood biopic 'American Sniper', which was equally grounded in machismo audacity, and flirted with being authentic despite casting the likes of Bradly Cooper instead of the partisan heroes.
The most eccentric aspect to this drama is not the distressing dialogue, it is not the fact that besides the mothers (Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer) the cast is replicated down to the victims aboard the terrorist incursion train, it isn't the blatant lack of immediacy seen from Eastwood, but the lack of chemistry on screen between the three, granting their intimate friendship. Although equally disturbing is the train scene itself. It's simple, tense, and wholly self aware, however, it's a mere three minutes long. Shot in dutch angles, there for once is a true sense of desperation and grit, nonetheless the purpose life was pushing our protagonists towards was hardly featured in the movie. And the rest of the film is simply bland, colorless, and without character.
We live in a Democratic country obsessed with the heroism of the everyday man to the point of worship. Want proof? Take a look at cinema in the past decade, or nearly any film these days that headlines Tom Hanks. Some of these pictures are moving others inherently forgettable. And although it was delightful to see the real life heroes at the local Cineplex, it did not make for good Clint Eastwood entertainment, unfortunately, it also isn't any good by most directors standards.