WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2018)
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 traveling 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.
Depicting the three men’s lives, from their troublesome adolescence to enlisting in the US Army (bar Sadler) up until the three decide to travel across Europe leading to the fateful event, the movie aims for ultimate realism. The central incident is afforded around fifteen minutes towards the end and is presented by Eastwood with brutal efficiency – though the terrorist’s entrance seemed like a WWE entrance video in the way it was shot, all body parts before the final reveal of the mysterious face. It’s what comes before that is ferociously painful.
The train re-enactment is great, but seeing the three guys stumble through a drawn out scene where they simply odder ice cream was enough to make me want to launch myself in front of a train but, hey, Venice looked great. 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 absolutely 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.
For Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler, they gamefully wander through the movie, as non-professionals being 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. However, the fact that the actions on screen during the attack are performed by the heroes who were there give 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…odd – “Sorry guys, can we repeat the scene where you beat up the convicted terrorist again, he says it wasn’t punch-accurate.”) – but the 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