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The 15:17 to Paris


Director: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, Mark Moogalian, Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer

August 21, 2015, a man named Ayoub El-Khazzani, tooled up with guns and knives, opened fire on the passengers travelling aboard a train from Amsterdam to Paris. It took the heroism and bravery of three young American men, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler, to take him down and prevent an incident of mass terrorism. Showered with accolades and praised for their actions, their story is told in The 15:17 to Paris by Clint Eastwood with the real-life heroes playing themselves throughout.



The movie depicts the lives of three men, from their troublesome adolescence to enlisting in the US Army (bar Sadler) and their decision to travel across Europe, leading to the fateful event. The aim here is to create ultimate realism and the focal incident is afforded around fifteen minutes towards the end and is presented by Eastwood with brutal efficiency. However, the terrorist's entrance seemed like a WWE entrance video in the way it was shot, leading up to the final reveal of the mysterious face. It's what comes before that is ferociously painful.


While the train re-enactment is great, seeing the three guys stumble through a drawn-out scene where they simply order ice cream is enough to make anyone want to launch themselves in front of a train. Venice looked great, but watching the heroes re-create their vacation was joylessly tedious, akin to watching your friend's holiday memories. Even before that, the middling story of their upbringing was nearly enough to make me denounce the movie totally. Why not show the incident and deal with the aftermath? The heroes' backstories did nothing to make their later efforts any greater. Normal people can be superheroes, which is great, but some parts of that message are more cinematic and engaging than others.


Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler gamefully wander through the movie, but as non-professionals given a poor script, they were doomed from the start. The authenticity and lack of dramatic baggage they bring is refreshing, however, at times it's painfully clear they aren't actors, and certain scenes are excruciating to get through. That said, the fact that the actions on screen during the attack are performed by the heroes who were there gives the scenes that bit of extra weight that familiar faces may not have been able to bring.


It's admirable of Eastwood to swing for the fences to inject some realism into this awful attack. Apparently, he lobbied for El-Khazzani to appear too, which would have been...misguided. Ultimately, his gamble failed miserably with The 15:17 to Paris. It's dull, lifeless, at times amateurish, and the final flourish comes far too late to salvage this. Did he hire three non-actors or only two? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this tedium, I kind of lost track myself.


August 7th 2018

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