15:17 to Paris movie review: This Clint Eastwood film fails to engage, partly because of its xenophobic nature

Mihir Fadnavis

Feb,09 2018 14:26:44 IST


The fact that Clint Eastwood at age 87 is still directing movies is commendable but it has to be acknowledged that not every piece of his output is a success. A textbook case of intent being greater than the craft and narrative, 15:17 to Paris fails to engage on both visceral and emotional levels. And ironically, for a film that asserts gallantry, it is rather xenophobic.

The film is based on a real life incident aboard a train in Europe where a terror attack took place, and instead of following a conventional thriller style Eastwood does some ‘stunt casting’ – which means casting non actors in the lead roles. Going one step further, the characters in question are in fact played by the same people who were involved in the real life incident.

A still from 15:17 to Paris.

The last time a major Hollywood film did this was back in 2012’s war drama Act of Valor which featured real soldiers of an elite squad – and it was also a failed experiment.

The gimmick begins to unravel quite early on as we’re introduced to three military friends – Spencer, Alek and Anthony (all playing themselves) who decide to take a break and go on a backpacking tour to Europe. Aboard the train from Paris to Amsterdam an Islamist terrorist shows up with a machine gun and it’s up to the trio to contain the situation.

By casting the real men involved in the incident the film tries to celebrate their heroism, and attempts to inject a sense of realism in a cinematic experience. It falls flat at every turn as the trio’s acting inexperience shows in every frame, their wooden line delivery being unintentionally funny at most times. The sequences therefore look like footage strung together by a student. It would have been fine if this were a documentary on the telly but in a motion picture from Eastwood one expects more cinematic polish.

The other issue with the film is how it sensationalises Islamic terrorists – and while they are the scum of the universe, portraying them as those being vanquished by American valor is unsubtle, jingoistic showboating. This is not surprising of course, because this is a film directed by the same guy who made American Sniper whose central character in real life was a raging racist but was whitewashed into an American hero for the screens.

Contrast this to a film like United 93 which is a masterpiece in the genre that this film explores – because unlike Eastwood, Paul Greengrass focuses on character and tension rather than jingoistic overtones even with a no name cast. In this film Eastwood declares an ‘it was meant to be’ undercurrent into the incident, portraying the three heroes as angels who were part of a mystic prophesy to thwart the Islamic infidels.

And if this weren’t enough the European vacation of these heroes is peppered with images of them mansplaining American valor to a German guide and the camera floating up the skirts of pretty European women like in an RGV movie. I guess this is what Eastwood believes to be a true American patriot – to be able to leer at women and then save them from bullets with their wide chests.

Updated Date: Feb 09, 2018 14:26 PM