Clint Eastwood's lost it, mostly.
Eastwood has really lost it. At least that's what I thought for almost the entirety of his new film "The 15:17 to Paris". I haven't really connected with anything Eastwood has made since "Million Dollar Baby" but I can't deny that he is a talented director. He has a frankness and oftentimes gritty (if not overly simple) approach to filmmaking that can translate into some incredible and transcendent stuff, like "Unforgiven". But he has been pretty off the mark for a long time now and this film, unfortunately, doesn't change that.
The movie stars the real people (GIMMICKS!) who took a terrorist head on and saved a plethora of lives on a train from Amsterdam to Paris. The biggest thing to address is that Eastwood's experiment of casting the real people just doesn't work. They are wooden and carry no presence or charisma on screen and it's a major part of why this movie flounders. The writing doesn't do them any favors, as it's some of the most stilted and awkward dialogue I've heard in a long, looooooong time ("My god is bigger than your statistics." Yes, that is a real line in this movie). There are also other odd choices Eastwood makes at the beginning of the film that seem completely counter-productive to what he is trying to accomplish. A big one is the fact that all the teachers/parents in the children's lives are recognizable actors/comedians (Tony Hale and Jenna Fischer to name two). It completely goes against what he is trying to achieve by casting the "real people" in his movie. It ruins the illusion Eastwood attempts to get from the main trios real experiences before they are even on screen. I could ignore some of these major flaws if the movie wasn't so dreadfully boring and didn't glorify war and combat so proudly. It all becomes so grating to watch and the movie is only 94 minutes long.
In fact, none of this movie works except for one sequence that showed me that Eastwood still has it in him. The sequence involving the three men actually confronting the terrorist is some of the most visceral and engaging stuff Eastwood has ever shot. I'd recommend buying a ticket and showing up about an hour and ten minutes late and just watching that singular sequence. It's really that good (even with these terrible actors). Despite the strength of that sequence the film is still a major dud and is easily one of Eastwood's worst films.
Al Pacino Rating: