Movies

Movie review: 'The 15:17 to Paris'

Clint Eastwood's new film about a trio of real heroes flies off the rails

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The young American men who instinctively acted to thwart what could have been a catastrophic terror attack on a train bound for Paris Aug. 21, 2015 have rightfully been called heroes. But, heroes aren't necessarily good movie actors.

In fact, it's probably safe to say most heroes would shy away from stardom, attributing their actions to "just doing my job."

Of course, Audie Murphy, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient managed to translate boyish good looks, honest courage and a latent talent for acting into a fairly long career in Hollywood. Unfortunately, it's doubtful the young men who portrayed themselves in Clint Eastwood's "The 15:17 to Paris" will enjoy the same path.

It's clear what Eastwood is doing with this hamfistedly composed movie. He wants his audience to discover the real life, everyday, all-American nature of these men, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler, so we can appreciate the depth of their selflessness and sacrifice.

He wants us to see how these men grew up together as classmates in the same Christian elementary school, played army with airsoft guns on weekends and got into harmless boys-will-be-boys troubles that caused two of their single moms (played with sitcom angst by Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer) no small degree of worry. But, the good intentions seriously run astray.

Eastwood tries to overlay his usual low-key dramatic method that relies on finding the key to an actor's performance by conveying well thought out subtleties. That's not hard when you're dealing with skilled actors, but nearly impossible with stiff nonactors going through the motions.

Eastwood telegraphs his method for telling this story by opening with a snippet from the incident, giving us a hint of the dramatic tension to come, but then he veers off into "Malcolm in the Middle"-ish territory by showing how the boys became friends. Eastwood labels Stone as the standout because, unlike his buddies, he has problems in school and is easily influenced by naughtiness.

But, he's a good kid, and provides the clear-eyed focus through which the audience can vicariously experience what is to come. He's also the first one of his friends who decides early on that he wants to join the military. To be clear, Skarlatos was in the army at the time of the incident, but Sadler was a civilian.

As a storyteller, Eastwood is a director known for his extreme economy. He reportedly knows when a shot is done and doesn't belabor the process by calling for additional coverage or repeated takes to satisfy his personal aesthetic.

Again, that works when he's dealing with professional actors who step onto the set knowing their lines and where to hit their marks. And, one would think that military drills and having gone through the real thing would prepare these guys for that very thing. But, whether it was the script by Dorothy Blyskal, based upon a book of the incident, or the direction, the movie winds up a limping mess until the terrorist attack unfolds.

This is when all the training and experiences before now come into play, and when it's over, the audience is left wondering, is that it? At a running time of 94 minutes, this is one of Eastwood's shortest features.

There are a number of big name actors who have served in the military, and some besides Murphy who are noted for their heroism. Among them are Charles Bronson, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, James Arness, Eddie Albert, Mel Brooks, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Lee Marvin and even Clark Gable who enlisted during World War II at age 40.

We thank them for their service, and their talent on the big screen.

This received a Tempo grade of  D.

"The 15:17 to Paris" is rated PG-13 for bloody images, violence, suggestive material, drug references and language.

It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For tickets, showtimes and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

The following were compiled from press materials.

Along for the Ride

MPAA rating: Not rated

Movies at the TCA

This documentary film explores the highs, lows and phoenix-like ascension of iconic Hollywood maverick Dennis Hopper as seen through the eyes of his longtime right-hand man and devoted friend, Satya de la Manitou.

Nick Ebeling’s debut feature film chronicles the unlikely duo’s incredible 40-year plus journey and enduring bond as intimately complex as Hopper’s own legendary career.

Drawing heavily from the testimony of de la Manitou, it features previously unseen and rare photos and footage that span the triumph of “Easy Rider,” the magnificent career suicide of “The Last Movie,” Hopper’s directorial follow-ups, “Out of the Blue” and “Colors,” alongside a midlife comeback with critically acclaimed performances in “Blue Velvet” and others, after an overwhelming number of questionable decisions.

While re-examining his dedication to his friend’s idiosyncratic and uncompromising genius, de la Manitou reminisces with a fascinating cast of characters from the film, architecture and art worlds and everyone in between. A diverse group of Hopper’s co-conspirators, family and friends, and others who were also, unwittingly or willingly, “along for the ride.”

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 18), and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Feb. 19-21).

Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

Fifty Shades Freed

MPAA rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity, and language.

Mitchell Storyteller 7

Believing they have left behind shadowy figures from their past, newlyweds Christian and Ana (Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson) fully embrace an inextricable connection and shared life of luxury. But, as she steps into her role as Mrs. Grey and he relaxes into an unfamiliar stability, new threats could jeopardize their happy ending before it even begins.

This film was directed by James Foley from a screenplay by Niall Leonard, based on the novel by E.L. James.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For showtimes, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Peter Rabbit

MPAA rating: PG for some rude humor and action

Mitchell Storyteller 7

This is an animated feature adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s classic tale.

Peter Rabbit (voiced by James Corden) and his three sisters — Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail (Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki and Daisy Ridley) — enjoy spending their days in Mr. McGregor’s (Sam Neill) vegetable garden. When one of McGregor’s relatives suddenly moves in, he’s less than thrilled to discover a family of rabbits in his new home.

A battle of wills soon breaks out as the new owner hatches scheme after scheme to get rid of Peter, a resourceful rabbit who proves to be a worthy and wily opponent.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For showtimes, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

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