The 15:17 to Paris is a biographical drama film directed by Clint Eastwood that was based on the autobiography The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Soldiers by Jeffrey E. Stern, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and, Alek Skarlatos. The film stars Stone, Sadler, and Skarlatos as themselves.
The Story/The Direction:
This film is about Stone, Sadler, and Skarlatos as they stop the 2015 Thalys train attack. Stone and Skarlatos were both enlisted men and along with their longtime friend Sadler, they had been traveling through Europe. Towards the end of their trip, they find themselves on this train that the attack occurred on. During this attack, the terrorist's gun jammed and he became overcome by the three men.
Eastwood when focusing on the incident itself is forceful and somewhat exciting. Eastwood has done many films based on true events and his style is apparent in the scenes that involve the attack. This scene has no score and only has screams from the other passengers. Eastwood is able to create a scene that is fairly convincing especially with three men that seem like true movie stars, which of course they aren't.
One of the draws of this film is that the three stars are played by themselves. Their relationships with each other feel authentic because they are true relationships. The audience can see that each cares for the other. As children, they bond in Catholic school over guns and their respective delinquent lives. Unfortunately, Skarlatos moves away to be with his off-screen dad. Fast forward a few years and Stone is dared by Sadler to get in shape to join the Air Force while Skarlatos joins the Army. Stone becomes the protagonist that is most looked at as he keeps the idea that God has a purpose for him. Stone is able to create some weight to the story whereas the other two aren't really looked at at all. They both feel like sidekicks to Stone's story. However, when the incident occurs on screen, the audience cares for the three men no matter their lack of character development. One also has to give props to the three men who were able to reenact the event for people who had not heard of it.
The biggest problem with this film is that the only engaging part of the film is the incident which mostly takes place in final fifteen minutes. The rest of the film is a narrative that is supposed to lead up to the event. Were these boys there by chance or for some other reason? Unfortunately, that narrative is not executed well. The first third of the film is only about Stone's training and the second third is a European travel video. Stone and Sadler travel to Rome and Venice and the audience sees them drink and interact with women. This whole sequence feels like EuroTrip except without the comedy unless one finds the bad dialogue comedy. The dialogue feels forced and not authentic which is a waste because the men in the film are playing themselves. The writing is awful and has a lot of cringe-worthy moments which unfortunately makes the audience care for the characters less than they deserve.
This film feels like Eastwood had trouble taking a fifteen-minute event and stretching it into an engaging ninety-five-minute story. With the final sequence, Eastwood uses shots of the actual French Legion of Honor presentation of which these three men received. The audience is meant to be fulfilled as the movie tries to say "If not for these three men being on this train at this exact moment, people would have died." While this may be true, every event leading up to the incident is just drawn out and boring. It is unfortunate that the film could not be better as these men truly did do something significant. Their heroic efforts to prevent the terrorist from killing people is pushed aside for a European travel video of a trip the audience didn't go on. The fact that two-thirds of this film is monotonous drab makes this film feel fairly unnecessary as the only part that is interesting is the finale. If one desires to see this movie, wait till it is on video-on-demand so the lead up to the terrorist attack can be fast-forwarded.
Rating: 1.5/5.0 bowties
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