When it comes to films that portray true acts of heroism, it feels uncompassionate to do anything other than praise them. However, sometimes we’re left in the sticky position where there really isn’t that much to praise – and this is very much the case for Clint Eastwood’s latest offering.
Based on the memoirs written by the heroes themselves, The 15:17 to Paris tells the story of an averted terrorist attack aboard a train in France in 2015. But where we’re expecting a disassembly of the actual attack and the events leading up to it, instead we’re given the rather uneventful life story of the three men that managed to save the day. In fact, so much time is spent on their childhoods, and their antics while travelling around Europe, that by the time we get to the actual point of the story we can’t really remember what it is anymore.
But Eastwood’s real error here was his decision to cast these men as themselves. While they may be heroes, they certainly aren’t actors, and rather than giving the film an authentic feel, it just feels a little wooden and entirely awkward. The constant religious references don’t really help either, and are likely to make any secular audiences roll their eyes in bemusement. After all, it’s not really necessary or pivotal to the story – it feels more like it’s been shoehorned in to make a point. Just what that point is, even Eastwood doesn’t really seem to be sure.
While the storytelling is competent enough, unfortunately the narrative is lost in an uneventful timeline and awkward exchanges. Eastwood’s aim for authenticity in casting Skarlatos, Sadler and Stone instead feels rather self-indulgent, and is ultimately what brings this film to its knees. Make no mistake, 15:17 is for true patriots only.
CAST: Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone, Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer
DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood
WRITERS: Dorothy Blyskal (screenplay); Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, Jeffrey E. Stern (book)
SYNOPSIS: Three Americans discover a terrorist plot aboard a train while in France.