I have no doubt that Clint Eastwood has the best of intentions in making The 15:17 to Paris
. He clearly admires the three young men at the center of the story, and why shouldn't he? On August 21st, 2015, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler helped prevent what could have been a tragedy when they stopped a potential terrorist on a train bound for Paris, France. Their actions on that day deserve to be celebrated, but I don't know if this movie was the right way to do it.
The movie that Eastwood has made is essentially 90% padding, with about a good 15 minutes or so depicting the actual event near the end of the movie. Even with a running time that barely crosses the 90 minute mark, the movie seems unnecessarily dragged out. Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler portray themselves in the movie, and while it's a neat idea, they quickly prove their inexperience with acting before the camera, and the movie becomes awkward almost from the moment they open their mouths. It doesn't help that they have been given dialogue that sounds like it was written by someone trying to mimic Fraternity House "bro talk", but not quite getting the gist of it. This is an ungainly and aimless movie, and the first massive disappointment of 2018.
The three heroes are depicted as good ol' boys who love America, love their guns, love their women even more, and are just generally misunderstood. We get to see flashbacks of the guys in elementary school during the first half of the movie, and how the strict principal and teachers at the Catholic school just did not understand their rebellious spirit. In one early scene, a teacher tells Spencer's mom that her son may suffer from ADD, and that she should look into medication for the boy, which the mom flat-out rejects. When the teacher goes on to say that statistics suggest children from single parents home are usually troubled, the mother dramatically yells back, "My God is bigger than your statistics!". It's this kind of tin-eared dialogue that lets you know what you're in for with the script. It also tells you that the movie is going to have a very negative glance at just about any authority figure who may try to rope the boys into any kind of confining condition or keep them under control. They are rebels and heroes, built for great things. One of the three men even says something along those lines at one point, and in another scene, they are told by someone "God spoke to me in a dream, and said you are going to do something amazing".
Thanks to the clunky script and the inexperienced actors at the center, The 15:17 to Paris
quickly becomes a failed experiment. What starts as a well-intentioned tribute to the men and their heroic deeds quickly dives right off the deep end of pointlessness when the movie literally becomes a home movie of their European vacation. A good half hour or so of the film is devoted to the guys visiting Italy and Amsterdam, before they catch that fateful train to Paris. It's at this point that the movie turns into the experience of watching home movies of people you don't know having fun on vacation, and seeing the sights. They tour Venice, visit the Rome Colosseum, meet some nice ladies, party at a nightclub...Sure, it looks like a lot of fun, but there's just absolutely no point to any of it. It's just biding time until the guys board the train, and the terrorist attack happens in Act 3. The attack is well staged and executed, and does have some tense moments. But by that point, most of the audience has already checked out, and it's too little too late, especially since the movie is basically over.
Another annoying thing that Eastwood does throughout the film is that he flashes forward to the events on the train at random moments. We see the guys as little kids being yelled at by their gym teacher for talking back to him, and then we suddenly cut to the train to Paris, as the terrorist begins his attack on the first couple potential victims. Then, the movie will suddenly cut back to the flashbacks of the three main characters as children. Why? I really want to know this. Maybe Eastwood is trying to hint at what lies in store for these boys when an authority figure tells them that they will never amount to anything unless they follow the rules, but it's really just sloppy and comes across as awkward editing. It's heavy-handed, overstated, and fails to build the suspense that it's obviously trying to build.
I am practically dumbfounded by this movie. Eastwood has made great movies, and likely will make another one soon, but he completely strikes out in just about every conceivable way here. This is simply an overly padded movie that never finds a sense or purpose in the telling of the story, because it refuses to dig deep enough. What a mess this movie is, and what a misstep from a usually great filmmaker.