In 2016, Director Clint Eastwood brought us Sully, the story of pilot Chesley Sullenberger who, against all odds, safely landed his damaged plane in the Hudson River without the loss of a single life.
Eastwood was faced with creating a feature film built around an event that lasted less than 4 minutes from takeoff to landing and this necessitated a great deal of padding of the story, with lots of scenes of phone calls between Sully and his wife, late night jogs through Manhattan and people getting settled in their seats aboard the aircraft, all of which enabled Eastwood to stretch the movie out to a still relatively brief hour and a half.
Now Eastwood has gone a similar route with his new film The 15:17 to Paris, which is based on the true story of the takedown of an armed terrorist aboard a Paris-bound trail by three Americans in a struggle that lasted less than five minutes, though the movie, as did Sully, has a runtime of roughly 90 minutes.
And once again, Eastwood has backed himself into a corner because there simply isn’t enough material to sustain a feature-length film without subjecting us to an incredibly slow first hour in which we see our heroes in flashback episodes from their childhood getting into trouble in school to protracted scenes of them wandering around Europe sightseeing (look, there’s the Colosseum, there’s the Trevi Fountain, isn’t that where the Pope lives?) before they finally board that train.
It is clear that Eastwood, in both films, is interested in telling the story of ordinary people rising to the occasion and exhibiting great skill and/or courage when the situation arises but even the quirky decision to not use professional actors but instead to cast the actual protagonists in the train incident to play themselves – not very successfully, to be honest – doesn’t help to give the movie any more credibility or add to its verisimilitude.
Eastwood is too skilled a filmmaker to make a really bad film (the final struggle on the train is well-staged and shot) and its heroes deserve kudos for their courage, which was acknowledged by the French government in a moving presentation shown at the end of the film.
While there are countless examples of excellent films based on events in which the outcome is already known (a personal favorite is Apollo 13), I can think of few movies that seemed to take as long to get to where they were going as this one so let’s not call it bad but rather let’s call it very boring and give it only three out of my seven run-on sentences.