The 15:17 to Paris” dramatizes the real life story of a group of men who prevented a terrorist attack on a train in 2015. But, while the actions taken by these people were heroic and deserve recognition, the story’s translation to the big screen had poor execution.
The movie follows the three American men who were integral to stopping the attack before there could be loss of life. Those men were Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler. Each of those men reprise their roles in the film, portraying themselves.
The picture showcases how the three met in their youth, Spencer and Alek enlisting in the U.S. military and the three friends going on a trip to Europe. This leads into their time on the train during the attack.
On almost every level, other than Clint Eastwood’s solid direction in the climactic action sequence, “15:17” falls apart. The plotting, for example, puts the film all over the place, with the movie showing glimpses of the train attack and then returning to a flashback.
Not only does this make the pacing in the movie choppy, but there are also some flashbacks that don’t really make sense. For example, at one point we’re shown that Alek’s mother loses custody and he has to live with his father. The movie makes it seem like this will be a big deal in regard to the friendship between Alek and Spencer, but it’s never brought up again.
There were many sequences like this scattered from start to finish. It appears this is because they had to pad the movie’s runtime, because it barely crosses the 90 minute mark.
Likely the weakest part of the whole film that really sinks most of the scenes here, though, were the three leads. What these guys did was incredibly brave, and they deserve every accolade and I think their story should be told. However, the fact that they weren’t professional actors was painfully obvious in every single scene.
Every bit of line delivery is stiff and feels unnatural. Many of the interactions feel rather inauthentic, with only a few good moments coming here and there thanks to the three leads knowing each other and being friends.
The faults can’t all be put on the acting, though. They were done no favors by an absolutely abysmal screenplay. The dialogue written for the actors is so off base here. Nobody talks like how the characters did in this picture. When not featuring poor interactive dialogue between characters, the movie’s script also had some awful, heavy handed moments. This is apparent right off the bat when the mothers of Spencer and Alek chew out a teacher for suggesting their children may have ADHD. Their choice of words was so over the top that it’s laughable.
As previously stated, though, the direction during the action moments is good. Eastwood obviously has a lot of talent as a director and has shown he has skills with shooting intense moments. That’s true here, as the finale is engaging.
However, that isn’t enough to save a film that doesn’t have anything else going for it. This story maybe could have worked as a short film, just focusing on the events on the train, or possibly a documentary featuring some dramatizations. As a full length narrative feature, though, it doesn’t work. 1 out of 5.