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Critics Admire Clint Eastwood’s Risky Casting but Bemoan His Execution in ‘The 15:17 to Paris’ Reviews

The latest feature from the 87-year-old filmmaker debuts tomorrow in theaters.

The 15:17 to Paris

“The 15:17 to Paris”

Warner Bros./screencapped

Two-time Best Director Oscar winner Clint Eastwood’s latest film, “The 15:17 to Paris,” starts screening nationwide tomorrow, February 9. The thriller revisits an August 2015 terrorist attack that a Moroccan man, armed with a rifle and a box cutter, carried out aboard an Amsterdam-departing train. Five of the passengers — including three Americans — worked to restrain the suspect. Of the train’s 554 passengers, only four sustained injuries, including the attacker, Ayoub El Khazzani.

This is Eastwood’s third homage in a row to heroic patriots (the others were “American Sniper” and “Sully”). After making more than 40 features, the 87-year-old decided to try a new approach, casting non-actors Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and and Alec Skarlatos, the aforementioned trio, who received medals for their valor from the Obama administration. Eastwood’s Warner Bros.-distributed film is an adaptation of their 2016 memoir of the same name, written with journalist Jeffrey E. Stern.

While critics praise the director-producer’s audacious casting and unvarnished composition that borders on documentary, several challenged screenwriter Dorothy Blyskal’s leaden dialogue, and the film’s overall lack of depth. As of press time, “The 15:17 to Paris” has a 24 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a Metacritic score of 48. IndieWire’s grade is a C+.

Read on for a round-up of the reviews.

Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“‘The 15:17 to Paris’ starts with some of Clint Eastwood’s worst filmmaking in years and closes with some of his best…Even when ’15:17′ stumbles, it maintains a fascinating performative gamble, fusing the tradition of reenactments in non-fiction storytelling with the crisper elements of a traditional narrative.”

Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“A fluky experiment of a true-life thriller that sounds, at least on paper, like a metabolic piece of Eastwood red meat…For a few minutes, the film rivets our attention. Yet I can’t say that it’s transporting, or highly moving, or — given the casting — revelatory.”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“[Casting the real men instead of actors is] a ballsy, Dirty Harry-worthy move – the kind of thing we love Eastwood for. It would make our day to report that the filmmaking legend, who’ll turn 88 in May, pulled it off with flying colors. That didn’t happen.”

A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“The thing to admire about ‘The 15:17 to Paris’ is precisely its artlessness. Mr. Eastwood, who has long favored a lean, functional directing style, practices an economy here that makes some of his earlier movies look positively baroque…Its radical plainness is tinged with mystery.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“A strangely boring, dramatically inert film in which the main characters remain as opaque and unreadable as sphinxes to the very last…[‘The 15:17 to Paris’] looks bizarrely like an essay in take-it-or-leave-it social realist grit or radical, non-professional clunkiness, as if before filming Clint watched Ken Loach’s ‘I, Daniel Blake’ and Tommy Wiseau’s ‘The Room’ and couldn’t decide which one he liked more.”

The 15:17 to Paris

“The 15:17 to Paris”

Warner Bros./screencapped

Peter Howell, Toronto Star

“None of the three [leads] had previously acted — and they still can’t. I wouldn’t blink if you’d told me the plastic baby from American Sniper had grown up to portray the cherubic Stone, who is a man I’d like to have beside me on any rail or air journey, as long as I didn’t have to watch him on a screen.”

Kevin P. Sullivan, Entertainment Weekly

“The performances paint the story with a phoniness that’s as ironic as it is distracting. Eastwood seems to be reaching for some level of realism, but when every single interaction feels like half-coded AI tried to recreate bro talk, it’s clear that a mistake has been made.”

Robert Abele, The Wrap

“A few minutes of nail-biting, recreated heroism isn’t enough to justify the other 90-or-so minutes in Clint Eastwood’s dry salute of a movie, ‘The 15:17 to Paris,’ which struggles to mix patriotism, friendship, God, and destiny into something meaningful.”

Steve Hogarty, City A.M.

“A bizarre film that looks and sounds like a feature-length Crimewatch reconstruction.”

John Semley, The Globe and Mail

“An immersive, 3-D-rendered selfie, which arrests real-world historical figures in the glistening amber of cinema.”

Watch the trailer below.

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