(US - 2018)
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by Dorothy Blyskal. Cast: Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer, Tony Hale, Thomas Lennon, P.J. Byrne, Jaleel White, Ray Corasani, William Jennings, Bryce Gheisar, Paul-Mikel Williams, Vernon Dobtcheff, Steve Coulter, Mark Moogalian, Isabelle Moogalian, Chris Norman, Jeanne Goursaud, Alisa Allapach. (PG-13, 94 mins)
THE 15:17 TO PARIS, the last and easily the least of Clint Eastwood's unofficial American Heroes trilogy (following AMERICAN SNIPER and SULLY), tries to get by on the stunt casting of the real heroes involved in thwarting a terrorist attack aboard a Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris in 2015. US Air Force staff sergeant Spencer Stone, US Army National Guard soldier Alek Skarlatos, and their non-enlisted childhood buddy Anthony Sadler were aboard the train to their final stop on a European backpacking trip when Ayoub El-Khazzani (played here by Ray Corasani) opened fire, leading to Stone, then Skarlatos and Sadler leaping to action to subdue him and tend to passenger Mark Moogalian (also playing himself), who was shot in the back and the neck trying to stop El-Khazzani before he made it to the car with the three Americans. It's a riveting story of heroism, adrenaline, and making split-second decisions, but does it warrant a 90-minute movie? Eastwood ran into this situation with 2016's SULLY, which took a five-minute incident and padded it out to feature-length and even had to manufacture its own drama in the process by inventing a vengeful head of an investigatory panel who did everything short of twirl a non-existent mustache to show his seething contempt for Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and his obsessive desire to nail the heroic pilot's balls to the wall. That never happened, even by Sully's admission. The closest thing to a villain in the Sully Sullenberger story is a flock of birds in the wrong place at the wrong time.
JERSEY BOYS, and whether it's getting facts right or even something simple like establishing where characters are, he just doesn't seem concerned. Mark Moogalian, an American who long ago relocated to France and is a professor at the Sorbonne, was one of the first to confront El-Khazzani, getting shot and almost bleeding out on the train, but he's not even an afterthought here, not even worthy of the end-of-film "Where are they now?" captions that the three Americans get. Is it because he doesn't fit the profile of the "America! Fuck Yeah!" narrative of Eastwood's American Heroes trilogy? British businessman Chris Norman was also on the train, helped disarm El-Khazzani, and plays himself in a few fleeting shots, but we never even get his name.There's no way UNFORGIVEN-era Eastwood would've made a film this shruggingly indifferent. It's insensitive and incorrect to chalk this up to his mental faculties (though talking to an empty chair in support of Mitt Romney a few years ago wasn't a good look) or a declining ability to handle the workload. He's almost 88 but I don't believe that's the case. I do, however, believe his being almost 88 is a reason he simply doesn't give a shit like he used to. His films are getting sloppier and he's more concerned with getting them done than getting them right (remember that baby in AMERICAN SNIPER?). Maybe he's earned that privilege after seven decades in the business, and maybe he continues working because it keeps him going and maybe he feels he can keep time at bay for a little while longer if he stays busy. But if THE 15:17 TO PARIS is any indication, he'd need to put forth more effort to even reach "coasting." It's because Eastwood is such an iconic legend of cinema that watching him half-ass it in his emeritus years is so distressing.