‘The 15:17 To Paris’ Review: A Big But…

There’s something to be said about casting real people in a film about an event they are famous for. You run the risk of turning the whole project into either exploitation, as in the case of stories about crime, or you go in the opposite direction and deify the people to the point of exhaustion. In the case of Clint Eastwood’s new film, The 15:17 To Paris, it is definitely the latter, as the three Americans who stopped a terrorist attack on a Paris train might be fine real-life heroes, but they are terrible actors who have no business even portraying themselves.

The 15:17 To Paris takes the events on that Paris train and then tries to add backstory of the three men: Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos. Eastwood takes the viewers back to when these three were kids, and casts Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer as two of their mothers. Young Anthony (played as a child by Paul-Mikel Williams) apparently has no parents, because the script couldn’t bother with giving them any screen time.

The 15:17 To Paris Review

The heavy handedness of the story of these three as kids very quickly proves that Eastwood is setting out to make a jingoistic, “America rules!” film, as these kids play with guns, say their prayers each night, and authority be damned, will do what they want when they want, because, ‘Murica! To say this is all God, Guns, and Country would be an accurate statement, and Eastwood doesn’t hide it at all.

By the time we get to the three stars as adults, with each man playing himself, the god awful script by Dorothy Blyskal gives them lines that not even seasoned actors could pull off, all to push this story that these men, who did a heroic deed in the face of real danger, were raised to do this. That playing with guns in the woods, and praying to God each night, telling Him that they are “His instrument of peace on Earth” somehow makes them better than the lone terrorist they took down on the train. Parallels could easily be drawn that the terrorist, played by Ray Corasani, was saying the same prayer in the lavatory on the train before beginning his assault. It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess.

The 15:17 To Paris is at times excruciating, and as my guest at the press screening said, it was like watching someone else’s vacation videos. To the person who did it, it might seem great, but to those watching, it’s about as exciting as watching paint dry. Twenty minutes is spent showing the men partying across Europe, and then taking in the sights, each with more heavy handed commentary that foreshadows the events to come on the train.

The 15:17 To Paris Review

This one act — the train attack — lasted all of three minutes from beginning to end, and Eastwood tries to stretch that into a 90 minute story, failing miserably in every way. This would have been better served as a documentary with the three men serving as the re-enactors than trying to deliver lines with any kind of ethos — and again, they supposedly said these words. The fascinating parts of the story are overwhelmed by shoddy pacing, terrible editing, and a script that should never have been greenlit, as it contains some of the worst written lines of this decade.

What is a unique story of heroism that we, as Americans, can definitely be proud of has been tarnished by Clint Eastwood’s agenda to push his God, Guns, and Country mantra until his dying breath. Eastwood has made some great films in the past, Sully being a recent tale of another real life hero, but maybe now its time for him to step away, if The 15:17 To Paris is any indication on how he will spend his twilight years as a filmmaker. I didn’t walk out of this film knowing the story any better, or thinking more highly of the real life heroes who stopped a terrorist on a train; I came out disgusted that these men and their story was exploited as such, and the execution of the entire film project soils the act of bravery of these men. And that blame falls on Clint Eastwood.

The 15:17 To Paris is rated PG-13 and is in theaters now.

The 15:17 To Paris Review
out of 5

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