Movie review: ‘15:17 to Paris’ never leaves the station - Camp Lejeune Globe: Carolina Living

Movie review: ‘15:17 to Paris’ never leaves the station

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Posted: Thursday, February 15, 2018 8:00 am

15:17 to Paris (PG-13)

Even the great ones fall down sometimes — just ask Bill Belichick. And like the Patriots head coach whose team came up short this week in Super Bowl LII, Oscar-winner filmmaker Clint Eastwood falls off the rails with his latest, “The 15:17 to Paris.” It’s the true telling of how three American soldiers from Sacramento, California, took down a gunman locked and loaded with an AK-47 and 300 rounds of ammo on a train bound from Amsterdam to Paris.

In a bit of stunt casting, Eastwood (the Best Picture-winners “Million Dollar Baby” and “Unforgiven”), entrusts the real-life heroes of the August 2015 attack to play themselves.

Even though the three young men – Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler – are attractive and appealing, it’s a gamble that doesn’t pay off.

It would be undignified to criticize the acting ability of three selfless and brave heroes-turned-actors. But the rest of the cast – Judy Greer, Thomas Lennon, Tony Hale, Bryce Gheisar, Paul-Mikél Williams, William Jennings – is fair game. They might be professionals, but I’ve seen better performances in community theater.

Granted, the script from newcomer Dorothy Blyskal — based on the three soldiers’ memoir “The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Soldiers” — is filled with stilted and forced dialogue.

It swaps between the past and present, flashing back to childhood when the boys meet in the principal’s office at Brookview Christian elementary school.

Like a lot of young boys, they have zero interest in studies and spend playtime engaging in backyard war games with toy guns.

Spencer, the one who lunged at the gunman and tackled him to the ground, gets the lion’s share of the screen time and the most developed character arc.

He goes from Jamba Juice to the U.S. Air Force, earning a Purple Heart and Legion of Honor medal for his heroism and humanity. All three receive such accolades, honors, and ticker-tape parades. Skarlatos was even a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Blyskal turns in a script that is a mixture of narrative and documentary, something right in Eastwood’s wheelhouse, as he continues his series of films about American heroes (“American Sniper,” “Sully”).

But the great director does little to disguise just how on-the-nose this script is, beginning with a young Spencer (Eichenberger) kneeling bedside (under a “Letters from Iwo Jima” movie poster!) after getting in trouble (yet again) to recite the Prayer of Saint Francis that begins “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace ...”

Yes, all signs clearly point toward what’s to come on that fateful day. When the men meet up on military leave to backpack across Europe, they bat around skipping Paris altogether. Naturally, Spencer convinces them to stick to the plan because “life is catapulting me toward something.” Destiny awaits.

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