Courtesy of Warner Bros.
By now, the whole world has heard of Clint Eastwood’s risky endeavour by not using actors and casting real life heroes - (Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler) of the Thalys train attack to play themselves, in which the three men took down an armed terrorist loaded with 3,000 rounds of ammunition and an AK-47. He did this to create a more authentic feel. These are the real people, and this is how it went down. The gimmick proves to be a successful one as seeing these three non-professional actors playing themselves isn’t the problem with “The 15:17 To Paris,” it’s the thin realization that, the actual event itself only takes up five to ten minutes of actual screen time, thus forcing the narrative to stretch far beyond its reach.
Because the terror attack only briefly makes up the runtime, audiences might find themselves duped into thinking this was a full blown thriller (and Warners is smart to market the film this way) but it’s really a biopic about these three men and their lives leading up to their heroic act of bravery. But it’s an odd paradox that, even though Eastwood cast the real life guys, why doesn’t the movie feel more real? The script, penned by Dorothy Blyskal based on the novel, sounds like every sentence was stolen from a motivational self-help book, and cheesy foreshadowing like Spencer saying “do you ever feel like, we were born for something?” The film even goes as far to manipulate us with a montage of Spencer whipping into shape to a tune by Imagine Dragons. Yawn.
Of course, Eastwood has to populate the other scenes with some known faces, Jenna Fischer and Judy Greer play Alek and Spencers parents respectively who get in stand off matches with their teachers early in the film. You’ll also notice Thomas Lennon as a strict christian school principal and Jaleel White playing a history teacher, and you can’t help but think these actors took bit parts just so they could say they worked on a Clint Eastwood film.
This leads us the actual event in which the film is centered upon, and while it’s definitely rewarding and exciting as can be: it’s over and done so quick you’ll think to yourself “that’s it?” I get that this is actually how it happened, and it’s commendable these guys saved all those lives, but like Eastwood’s last film “Sully” it doesn’t have the feel of a full length film. Almost like the movie was made to try and capitalize on the “true story brand” and not actually pay tribute to what these men did. It doesn’t come at you from every angle, which left me with many questions as to how certain events took place.
You won’t be bored watching “The 15:17 to Paris” if you feel the need to check it out, the three men obviously have a good bond considering all they’ve been through, that does add an extra element that might’ve been missed had they casted real actors. I respect the efforts on display, and our nation owes a debt to these strong comrades for throwing themselves into the line of fire. But I look at this movie and think to myself: they deserved better. C