Cast: Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Mark Moogalian
Director: Clint Eastwood
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: 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.
When I found out that Clint Eastwood would be making a film based on a flash in the pan moment with the actual men who went through the event, I thought that it would be a train wreck, no pun intended. Clint Eastwood is not known for being a patient director as evident in the infamous fake baby scene in American Sniper, so I probably would not want him directing people with zero professional acting experience. Through a plot that the ultimately leads nowhere and wooden performances from the three leads, this film fails to exceed its expectations.
The film is about three men, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos (played by themselves) and their lives leading up to the terror attack on a train headed to Paris that they stopped. The issue with the story is that it is way too aware of itself throughout. There are multiple times during the movie when characters talk about how life has a big thing waiting for them or asked hypothetical questions of what you would do in a situation. Either these guys have a huge opinion of themselves or it is intentionally being obvious about the impending events. Since the movie is based on a real-life event, we know what they would do, so that buildup is unescessary. Speaking of that, since the three leads are the real people who stopped the attack, it makes it very difficult to build any sort of suspense. Compared to other Eastwood films on pro-American events, this film ends with the event while movies like Sully and American Sniper have a story to tell after their initial conflict ends. A non-Eastwood biopic like Only the Brave is based on a true story, but since the characters were portrayed by actors, you do not know how the story ends unless you are aware of what happened. Outside of those things, many of the plot points in the second act are completely irrelevant. Their trip throughout Europe did not aid in developing the story and rarely gives any character moments. One thing that the film does well is the portrayal of the actual attack on the train and the aftermath. The attack was incredible tense even though we knew how it would end and I thought the use of actual footage after the attack helped drive the point home. This is the only scene where Stone seems comfortable in his role, and I think it is because for the first time in the film, he was acting like he was back in the military. Outside of that, the three leads have a very hard time portraying any type of emotion. The only one that has even a remote amount of charisma is Sadler, while the rest of them are clearly out of their element. I do not know how many acting classes these three took before filming started, but Eastwood probably should have used professionals for these roles.
Overall, I do not know if Eastwood took an unnecessary risk or if he wanted the film to feel more authentic, but either way it did not work out. The film never felt as though it had a point as it is all build up and then climax and then it just ends. I will give the film a few points because yes, it was bad, but it could have been much worse. I do not know what Clint Eastwood is working on next, but I hope this experienced and incredible director moves on from this experiment and goes back to his older, more well-received ways.
Overall Score: 3.5/10