The 15:17 to Paris Review
On August 21, 2015, an armed man opened fire inside a train on its way from Amsterdam from Paris and was heroically subdued by passengers, including American service members. The actions of Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, Chris Norman and the other passengers and crew during the incident were truly courageous and deserve the utmost respect. It's an inspiring true story dramatize for a feature film.
Now let's break down why The 15:17 to Paris
is an absolutely terrible attempt at bringing that story to the big screen.
Let's start with the obvious - Eastwood's decision to cast Sadler, Skarlats, Stone and others as themselves was a poor one. These people are real life heroes, but they are not professional actors. Their flat, dull delivery and dead-eyed stares are pretty painful to watch. However, it is unfair to put all the blame on their terrible performances. The 15:17 to Paris
would have still an awful film even if good actors were playing these parts.
The actual train incident takes up no more than 20-25 min of the movie 94 min runtime. Instead, the majority of The 15:17 to Paris
is focused on the lives of Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone not just immediately prior to the events, but also as far back as when they first met in junior high (never fear - the kid actors that play them are also really bad).
It's clear that there was an honest attempt to pull something meaningful from the lives of these men that connects to what happened on the train. Scenes of Stone's military training are there to show how he knew what to do in an emergency and there are also a few incredibly unsubtle bits where the characters talk about possibly having 'a greater purpose' and being pulled towards something.
Unfortunately, the dialogue is beyond stilted and the pacing is atrocious, which results in most of the movie coming across as pointless padding before we get to the train incident. Are you up for the powerhouse excitement and scintillating drama of not one, but TWO separate Skype conversations where the three friends make plans to go backpacking across Europe? How about that time Stone and Sadler met a random woman in Italy, talked for a bit, grabbed some gelato and took some photos? (She never comes back after that)
Early on, the movie will sometimes flash forward to the train incident for a few seconds, as if to remind you what it's supposed to be about, but there is a considerable stretch of time where you're just seeing random bits of these people's lives. Did you know Stone once gave a service member a free smoothie because he has a lot of respect for the military? How about that time Sadler was sent to the principal for swearing in class? Great stuff.
This movie is meant as a celebration of everyday heroes, but it instead makes their lives look insufferably dull. Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer pop up in small supporting roles to lend it some actual acting cred. The crappy dialogue and cheap melodrama does a disservice to both of them, but at least they can emote.
The train incident is the movie's strongest part, but even then it looks more like a halfway-decent dramatization for a hokey TV special as opposed to a big budget Hollywood release from an acclaimed veteran director. Even at is best, this movie is pretty underwhelming.
The 15:17 to Paris
is basically unwatchable and feels like it's two and a half hours long. In other words, it's an early contender for worst movie of the year.