Roger Friedman writes: Don’t believe the mixed or bad reviews coming in early for Clint Eastwood’s “15:17 to Paris.” I saw it tonight, and like A.O. Scott in the New York Times, I found it fascinating and much more complicated than a snarky dismissal.
You know, I’m Jewish and liberal, so “patriotic” and “Christian” aren’t two of the things I warm to in movies necessarily. But Eastwood’s take on these real life heroes is not simplistic. The real life people playing themselves as heroes on the train from Amsterdam to Paris– I was braced for a bad movie. And I will say, it starts slowly and it’s totally not what you expect. Nevertheless, if you’re patient with it, you quickly realize several things.
First of, the real guys are not bad. I’ve seen worse. Compared to Louis CK’s unreleased “I Love You, Daddy,” the acting and writing here is Shakespearean.
Second, Eastwood– as he did in “American Sniper” and “Sully”– lays out their stories and backgrounds objectively. I’m already seeing in some reviews some idea that Eastwood is pushing a religious agenda or whatever. Nonsense. He’s accurately depicting these people. The mothers of the guys are religious– this is what they believe, it’s their right. No one is mocking them or judging them. This is who they are. And kudos to Jenna Fischer and Judy Greer for finding the mothers’ dimensions.
If there’s a problem with “15:17” it’s that it’s almost filmed like cinema verite, certainly as the story unfolds. There’s a lot of exposition and it seems slow. Again, a little patience wouldn’t hurt anyone. Because when the kids’ backstories switch to the main guys, Eastwood finds a groove. Forgive him if the entry seems clunky.
A lot of the movie hands on Spencer Stone, the main hero of the three Sacramento friends. He pushed his real life buddies (Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler) to take this trip with him through Europe when he got time off from the Air Force. By coincidence, I met Stone briefly. After all this happened, and before he made this movie starring as himself, he came to the NY Opening of Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies.” He was very affable. I would never have guessed he could confidently carry himself through a narrative film, reciting dialogue and moving comfortably through scenes. This is quite an accomplishment … (read more)