Whatever opinion you have on the directing career of Clint Eastwood, it’s impossible not to admire the pace he keeps. At 87 years old, he’s shown no sign of slowing down, essentially putting out a film every other year. It’s not the yearly pace of fellow octogenarian Woody Allen, but it’s not far off. With a new movie opening this week in The 15:17 to Paris, it seems only appropriate to talk about Eastwood a bit, specifically Eastwood the director. He’s an Oscar winner, after all, so even his newest seems like little more than popcorn entertainment, he’s certainly capable of more than one sort of movie.
His new film, obviously, is The 15:17 to Paris. Based on a true story, this is the long-is plot description that IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes has: “In the early evening of August 21, 2015, the world watched in stunned silence as the media reported a thwarted terrorist attack on Thalys train #9364 bound for Paris–an attempt prevented by three courageous young Americans traveling through Europe. The film follows the course of the friends’ lives, from the struggles of childhood through finding their footing in life, to the series of unlikely events leading up to the attack. Throughout the harrowing ordeal, their friendship never wavers, making it their greatest weapon and allowing them to save the lives of the more than 500 passengers on board.” The three men in question are Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone, who all play themselves here. That meta bit adds another layer on to what otherwise might be another action drama from Eastwood. Dorothy Blyskal wrote the screenplay, based on the book by Sadler, Skarlatos, Stone, and Jeffrey E. Stern, while Eastwood directs. Professional actors in the cast include P.J. Byrne, Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer, Tony Hale, Thomas Lennon, and Jaleel White, among others, while longtime Eastwood collaborator Tom Stern is behind the camera.
Eastwood is an A-list filmmaker, if sometimes a very inconsistent one. His best work, like the Academy Award winners Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven, have the feel of classic cinema. Other times, he can be guilty of prestige fare that never seems to have a point, like with J. Edgar, for example. Eastwood is thought to be in a bit of a funk these days, though his last film Sully was tremendous, and your mileage may vary with American Sniper. Depending on what the reception to The 15:17 to Paris ends up being, we may be seeing a late career resurgence for the director.