The 15:17 To Paris

Clint Eastwood, now 87, has made some of the finest movies of this century. His latest is not one of them, but it does not warrant the brickbats that have been hurled at it. Indeed, if Eastwood’s crime is to laud the heroism of three unarmed men who took down a terrorist armed with an automatic rifle and 300 rounds of ammunition, then pft! to his measly critics. Based on the incident in 2015, when the backpacking trio intervened to prevent a massacre on the Amsterdam–Paris train, there is more than enough promotion of individualism and ‘ain’t America great’ even for this stalwart fan. But we’re familiar with Eastwood’s politics – some early scenes make Ayn Rand look like a leftie – but the lack of subtlety only occasionally grates. In a flashback to the boys’ school gym (they were childhood buddies), two of them are wearing khaki singlets while everybody else is in white. You feel like shouting at the screen ‘We get it, Clint! We get it!’ The biggest risk Eastwood takes, though, is having his protagonists play themselves, for it is obvious from the outset that Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone, the most prominent, are not actors. They are wooden at times but, not helped by dialogue that is prosaic at best, they’re not that bad and, in their favour, they at least present an unforced camaraderie. Most attention is paid to Stone, a guy who joined the military to fulfil his need to do good but was unable to find his niche. He is a typically bullet-headed but polite believer in God and destiny – so I can’t quite explain why I was on side with him. Even with a puerile script, the old pro Eastwood manages to bring it home, and the best is saved ’til last. Using real-life footage, the speech given by the French president Francois Hollande on the steps of the Élysée  Palace before awarding the men the  Légion d’honneur is a rousing affirmation of values we too often lampoon.

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