Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood can now add major risk-taking to his list of accomplishments. After for the most part winding down his acting career, the “Dirty Harry” star has become a notable and successful director. In “The 15:17 to Paris,” he takes a directorial gamble in casting several non-actors to play themselves in major roles.
During the summer of 2015, a heavily armed man motivated by ISIS attempted to commit a major act of violence aboard a train heading from Amsterdam to Paris. He was thwarted by three young American men named Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, and Spencer Stone.
It is a remarkable story, and it is unsurprisingly well told by the very capable Eastwood. He has a history of making successful and entertaining films depicting real-life acts of courage.
Perhaps inspired by Italian neorealism, Eastwood enlisted Skarlatos, Sadler, and Stone to play themselves in this movie that otherwise seems just like any other Hollywood release. With Eastwood at the helm, many might predict that this gamble would pay off.
But, according to numerous prominent film critics, they would be wrong.
Writing for the New York Times, A.O. Scott praises aspects of the film, but correctly notes that it lacks any intimacy among its main characters. This is perhaps due the fact that the movie’s director could not rely on his leads to provide emotional depth given that they are not professional actors.
At The Ringer, K. Austin Collins finds the film to be fascinating due to the extent to which it does not work. He believes that Eastwood made a mistake in going too far with hero worship. Praising these men by deservedly depicting them as heroes is one thing, but it is possible that Eastwood was arrogant in thinking that they could also serve successfully as actors.
Over at Rotten Tomatoes, “The 15:17 to Paris” currently has a 21% score among critics, and a 47% score among audiences.
Regardless of the reviews, “The 15:17 to Paris” is a story that deserves to be told, and Eastwood has earned the right to boldly experiment with his craft. While the men who star in the film will never become movie stars, not that they would want to, it is worth watching them this one time.