By Daniel Howat
Final Score: 1 out of 10
What took place on August 21st, 2015 on the 15:17 train from Amsterdam to Paris was an act of genuine courage and heroism. Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos are heroes. They are not actors. And that’s okay. But director Clint Eastwood made the erroneous decision to cast these men in their true story, undermining the film from the start. But the blame isn’t all on the leading men.
So let me cut to the chase: The 15:17 To Paris is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.
Not every incredible true story necessitates a movie. The real-life attack on the train lasted a matter of minutes. While on that train, a terrorist emerged from a restroom with an assault rifle. He shot one man while struggling to gain control of his weapon. When the terrorist’s gun jammed, our three heroes lept into action, taking the man down. Incredible story though it may be, stretching it out to a 90-minute film was a misguided idea from the start. Maybe there could be a scenario to make this story work in a film, but following the early lives of these men was the wrong choice.
The interesting thing about the men is that they’re normal people. They were ordinary men who made an extraordinary decision, saving countless lives. Attempting to make a story out of normal men was...highly boring. The film tries to show how they were destined for greatness, and it just never makes any sense. The first half of the film shows them as preteens making friends and getting into trouble. It doesn’t connect to the event on the train at all. The middle portion shows Spencer as he trains for the Air Force. It doesn’t actually connect to the event on the train either. The latter half of the film just follows the guys as they travel Europe. It does connect to the event on the train! Except it’s just truly uneventful. So much time in this movie is literally dedicated to taking selfies on the trip. Or just having dinner. It’s just following dudes on a trip. It could’ve been anyone. It’s embarrassing.
While most people might focus on how bad the acting is here, and it certainly is bad, it’s not remotely the worst aspect of the movie. Right from the very start of the film, as it opens with a pointless voice-over, it’s clear how horrible the writing is. The dialogue in this movie feels worse than most Lifetime movies.
“There’s just something about war...the brotherhood, ya know?” That’s a line that a 12-year-old boy says to his friends after they all fall down in the leaves together while laughing and playing airsoft. It’s painful. “I don’t know man, you ever feel like life is just pushing us towards something, like some greater purpose?” These lines all just feel so uncomfortable. Sure, the men aren’t trained actors, which makes the delivery even worse, but this script wouldn’t work no matter who was cast.
The film also attempts to inject faith periodically into the story. The mom characters (Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer) randomly spout vague references to their belief in God. Every time the film invokes God, it feels so wrong and offensive. Greer’s character angrily shouts at a teacher that “God is bigger” than the teacher’s problems with Anthony. The principal tells Greer that her son should go live with his father, citing his discussions with the Lord. It’s so simplistic, insulting, and just badly written. It serves no purpose in the story, except to make it feel as though it was trying (and failing) to be a Christian film. Though it makes Christians look foolish and obnoxious.
When we finally get to the climax of the film, there are brief moments of good tension. It’s easily the best part of the film since it’s the part of the story that’s worth being filmed. The attack is tense and shot with gripping realism. But after those two minutes are over, we spend far too much time just watching Spencer try to stop a man from bleeding out. It goes on for far too long and completely ruins any good that they had going for them.
While these men are heroes, this film is a huge waste of time. It’s the opposite of compelling. It’s completely uninteresting. Terrible acting, worse writing, and a complete lack of purpose, this movie would’ve been better left as a very short documentary. Do not see The 15:17 To Paris.