Sunday, October 21, 2018
Movies

Trio who stopped a train attack star as themselves in Clint Eastwood’s dull ‘The 15:17 to Paris’

Clint Eastwood admires flashpoint heroism, those spontaneous acts in crisis making a difference, saving lives. Sully landing a crippled airliner on the Hudson River, three impromptu heroes taking down a terrorist on The 15:17 to Paris.

Both stories are worthy of movies, yet even a filmmaker like Eastwood can’t overcome the brevity of their truths. Capt. Chesley Sullenberger’s heroic actions took under three minutes, so Sully inflated a routine investigation to antagonistic feature length.

The heroism displayed by three American backpackers on a train also took only a few minutes, but The 15:17 to Paris takes a duller route to feature length. Like many sudden heroes, these lifelong friends led unremarkable lives until fate stepped in. Eastwood is committed to depicting every single unremarkable step along the way.

That miscalculation is compounded by Eastwood casting the real-life trio as themselves, making amateurism understandable but no less numbing. Only the child actors portraying their adolescence with eye-rolling and oversold lines annoy more.

Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler grew up in Sacramento, Calif., as mischievous kids bullied and disciplined at school. They liked playing war games, leading to Spencer and Alek joining the military. Spencer and Alek had single mothers; Anthony’s African-American parents are ignored until the finale. None of the young men were particularly successful at what they were doing.

Yet Eastwood presses to connect little things picked up along the way with their reflexive actions in crisis. Spencer learned jiu jitsu that he uses to choke out the gunman, along with how to plug a bullet wound with his thumb. Alek knows how to disarm an automatic weapon. Anthony knows how to escort a young woman off the train.

Those few minutes bring out Eastwood’s instinct for tense violence after more than an hour of bland storytelling then travelogue boredom. Casting familiar faces like Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer and the guy who played Urkel doesn’t make growing up interesting. We don’t need to watch the guys sightseeing in Rome, eating gelato in Venice or shaking booties in Amsterdam except for Eastwood to chew up a few minutes of running time.

The 15:17 to Paris weakly attempts suspense by suggesting the men won’t travel on that fateful train but, seriously, read the title. Dorothy Blyskal’s paint-by-vowel screenplay puts foreshadowing words in people’s mouths that even if spoken in reality sound phony here. The finale is Eastwood at his laziest, allowing news footage to do his job. At least Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler now have the ultimate souvenir of their vacation.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

Comments
In theaters this week: ‘Halloween,’ ‘The Oath,’ ‘The Old Man & The Gun,’ Tampa Theatre gets in spooky spirit

In theaters this week: ‘Halloween,’ ‘The Oath,’ ‘The Old Man & The Gun,’ Tampa Theatre gets in spooky spirit

Catch loads of Halloween classics at Tampa Theatre or the Halloween revival that brings Jamie Lee Curtis back after 40 years.
Published: 10/17/18
What makes the new ‘Halloween’ such a thrill is how it deviates from the original

What makes the new ‘Halloween’ such a thrill is how it deviates from the original

Decades after John Carpenter’s slasher landmark, David Gordon Green has resurrected the faceless Boogeyman of Halloween and set him loose on another Halloween night, 40 years later.
Published: 10/17/18
‘The Oath’ is a political satire that’s ripped, like a Band-Aid, from today’s headlines

‘The Oath’ is a political satire that’s ripped, like a Band-Aid, from today’s headlines

This blistering political satire may reopen a political wound that has barely had time to heal.
Published: 10/17/18
How Lady Gaga's real life mirrors - and doesn't mirror - her character in 'A Star Is Born'

How Lady Gaga's real life mirrors - and doesn't mirror - her character in 'A Star Is Born'

Maybe you watched the trailer for "A Star Is Born," and thought, huh, that's weird. We're supposed to believe that Lady Gaga lacks the confidence to sing her own songs, or that she is unattractive, and, therefore, she couldn't have a singing career? ...
Published: 10/13/18
‘First Man’ aims to make us feel, and see, what Neil Armstrong felt and saw

‘First Man’ aims to make us feel, and see, what Neil Armstrong felt and saw

There’s enough going on in director Damien Chazelle’s tense, distinctive Neil Armstrong biopic First Man to leave the climactic, inspired Apollo 11 moon landing sequence aside for a few paragraphs. So hang in there, please, and we’ll get to the damn ...
Published: 10/11/18
What’s in theaters this week: ‘First Man,’ ‘Bad Times at the El Royale,’ ‘The Hate U Give’

What’s in theaters this week: ‘First Man,’ ‘Bad Times at the El Royale,’ ‘The Hate U Give’

From Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong to Goosebumps 2, here’s what movies are releasing this week.
Published: 10/10/18
Updated: 10/11/18
‘The Hate U Give’ is an essential movie for 2018

‘The Hate U Give’ is an essential movie for 2018

The movie examines Black Lives Matter in a powerful, timely and deeply moving tale.
Published: 10/09/18
Need a giant glacier? An Eiffel Tower? Tampa prop master Tandova Ecenia is selling them off after 38 years

Need a giant glacier? An Eiffel Tower? Tampa prop master Tandova Ecenia is selling them off after 38 years

TAMPA — Tandova Ecenia has her choice of how to ride off into the sunset — dozens of pony-on-a-stick toys, a covered wagon, a 65-foot pirate ship replica.“I have a little of everything,” Ecenia said with a laugh.Not for lo...
Published: 10/08/18
Why I’m done watching movies made by bad men

Why I’m done watching movies made by bad men

There are times when I’m just done. This is one of those times.It was reported this week that Mel Gibson is co-writing and directing a reboot of The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah’s revolutionary 1969 Western. Leaving aside whether we need this movie (we ...
Updated one month ago
So did Russian bots try to bring down 'Star Wars'? After furor, man who authored study says not exactly

So did Russian bots try to bring down 'Star Wars'? After furor, man who authored study says not exactly

The internet has been aflame this week over a study suggesting Russian trolls and bots had been deployed as part of a campaign to bring down one of the biggest movies in the "Star Wars" franchise."Russian trolls stoked 'Star Wars: The ...
Updated one month ago