After the sheer duds that were “Jersey Boys,” and “Sully,” I was definitely ready for “The 15:17 to Paris” to be a riveting and emotional tale of true heroism in a dark world. The story of the Sacramento Hometown heroes is one of the great modern stories of heroism and courage in the face of sheer danger. And I could have thought of at least a dozen ways I would have loved to learn about this tale rather than a glorified television movie that’s pretty much a huge misstep in every direction. “The 15:17 to Paris” teeters back and forth between pure saccharine nonsense and baffling choices in filmmaking that kept me rolling my eyes and groaning throughout its run time.
In 2009, New Yorkers were submitted to watching what media branded “The Miracle on the Hudson,” and seven years later, director Clint Eastwood tries harder than ever to transform the very unique event in to something of a hero’s journey. Eastwood takes Sully Sullenberger’s story and transforms it in to an unremarkable and tedious drama that would be so much more appropriate as a Sunday night movie on basic cable, if Sully were played by Neil McDonough or Tom Selleck. Tom Hanks can play a role like this in his sleep, and in “Sully,” he evokes the exact same tones and character elements we saw him master in “Captain Phillips.” In Eastwoods ho hum drama, Hanks is the poor man’s Captain Phillips, sensationalized to look distressed and making very hard decisions in a very tough situation.
Director Clint Eastwood has to work with one of the most popular stage musicals in a long time and really has no vision for bringing it to the big screen. I love Frank Valli and his music, and on film his work is still stunning. But “Jersey Boys” is only a mediocre adaptation of the stage musical. Eastwood doesn’t seem to want to give the movie a wider scale at any point, and then in the closing credits just tacks on a final number that recreates the musical. For all intents and purposes, “Jersey Boys” gives Frankie Valli a much deserved nod to his fans and legendary music, but director Clint Eastwood simply has no idea how to work it in to a dynamic biographical drama with its own unique flavor.
For a film directed by someone as beloved and accomplished as Clint Eastwood, it’s hard to fathom that such a film would come off so amateur and tedious to sit through. Leonardo DiCaprio goes whole hog for Oscar territory delivering one of the worst performances of 2011 mimicking the drawl of J. Edgar Hoover but often times sounding like a man overplaying his role in a local community theater production in New Hampshire or something. “J. Edgar” has no style to it, nor does it possess an iota of compelling tidbits about Hoover’s life and career. Mostly it places gaudy cinematography above all else and aims to merely gloss over much of what J. Edgar had accomplished or fumbled in to.
Harry Callahan does all the dirty work. He does the dirty work that the people in the force wouldn’t do were it not for him. In the first half of “Dirty Harry,” he has to cut his lunch short and walk across the street in the middle of gun fire to stop a bank robber. And the cavalry is taking a while to get there and help him. He stops his eating, and is forced to single handedly put an end to the heist, and he goes back and finishes his lunch. He does it because he has to, because without him it all goes to shit. That’s Dirty Harry, the man with the magnum who sparked quite a controversy upon his introduction with many assuming he was an ode to, and endorsement for vigilantism and right wingers.