Neorealism is a dying, if not already dead, form of filmmaking that was popularized by Italy after the first World War. The idea is to allow for art to imitate reality. The original cause for this stylistic choice was the repercussions of war that destroyed most if not all of the sound stages that Italy possessed. Clint Eastwood has decided to replicate that form of storytelling, but instead of the reasoning being that of a lack of resources, Eastwood’s logic seems to stem from his ideals of patriotism. An underlying tone that never escapes the story of “The 15:17 to Paris” in a way that is not servicing the heroes involved, nor is it servicing the audience either.
Eastwood, 87, seems to be searching for his last semblance of remembrance. The aged western icon became a director in the late 1950’s and since then has been able to manifest some genuinely emotional moments of cinematic storytelling. From “Unforgiven” to “Million Dollar Baby,” Eastwood may not have been telling the most excellent stories, but they had enough heart within them to become something spectacular. So how is it that a director known for his use of emotion has directed a film that is absent of every ounce of emotion? Simple, he ventured to a style that he’s A) not experienced with, and B) misused entirely. The purpose of neorealism isn’t meant to give real-life heroes a chance at depicting their own story, but to provide a dose of authenticity to a story. Eastwood does that in the final ten minutes that involves the actual event that we paid to see, and for the rest of the runtime, we get to watch a director attempt to experiment with tools he has never thought of utilizing until now.
2018 will be a year of experimentation it seems, from the marketing styles of “The Cloverfield Paradox” to the recharacterizing of superheroes in “Black Panther.” 2018 will be a year of new stories being told through new viewpoints, and Eastwood joins the brigade in a way that is not entirely new. The conservative Christian ethics that are intertwined with the storytelling are the tip of the proverbial spear that Eastwood uses to stab the legacy of these three men. Art is meant to express individual stances on life, so who am I to judge a film based on the values at the center of its story? A man who finds them disagreeable, but the problems of the film does not lie within these falsehood values that lie opposite of my own, but the sheer ludicracy of using non-actors in a story that requires good acting.
If your expecting an action-filled story that symbolizes the bravery in patriotism and the courage it takes to stand up to terrorism, then you’ve come to the wrong movie. Eastwood is not telling the heroic story of three men stopping a tragedy from occurring, but rather their life stories that lead them to a moment that he used to market the film. I hate to point the finger at a man with a lineage of success, but it seems that he’s piggybacking off their heroism for profit.
For a few reasons, one is that he places them at the center of criticism. For those who aren’t savvy in the realm of filmmaking, they will blame these awful actors for their terrible portrayals. These men have never acted before though, so how can you blame them? That shed of blame should not be placed on the actors, but the man directing them. Sure, there will be men like the elderly cowboy who preached his disapproval of my preconceived notions of the film in which he described me as a “Hollywood favoring liberal.” Those people will see this movie and enjoy the authenticity of it all, but in all actuality their missing the point in which Eastwood has utilized the empathy of patriotism to monetize a story that is marketed but never told.
The acting is unjustifiably awful, even those who are actual actors don’t do justice to a story requiring a more empathetic touch from a much more prestigious filmmaker. The camera has many flaws to be found from its lack of vibrancy to its constant failure to feel cinematic. The shots begin to become reminiscent to something of a found footage documentary as we venture from a cinematic biopic to a home video styled vacation movie of Spencer and his friends to an enthralling action sequence that all of us had waited eighty minutes to witness. We paid our money to see the power of these men’s courage, not their vacation videos. Eastwood does whatever he can, it seems, to not only belittle the heroes themselves but string the audience along, so that we can realize that we’ve not only wasted our money but more importantly, we’ve wasted our time.
“The 15:17 to Paris” is a film that is not honoring these men’s heroism, nor is it reminding the audience of the bravery it takes to stand up to fear. The ninety-four-minute cliched drama is acted terribly, which creates a vacuum of emotion, abysmally written and never given a dose of excitement until its final few minutes. It doesn’t help that Eastwood seems to have phoned it in once again and that his conservative Christian values have not only seeped through the cracks of the pixels once again, but they’ve reached out and slapped you in the face with their blunt opinions. I get it, I get it, you’ve got your own view of their world and so do we all. This is the medium to express that opinion, but you could add a story that allows us to attempt at connecting with those values because if we can learn anything from this biopic story, it's that Eastwood is anything but subtle.