Americana, Guns, Faith, Military, and Islāmic Terror Attacks…five things to guarantee a bad rating on Rotten Tomatoes. All jokes aside, I was skeptical when Director Clint Eastwood announced that he had cast Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone to play themselves in the film The 15:17 to Paris in where they reacted the 2015 Thalys train attack. An attack that saw a suspected Islāmic terrorist attempt mass murder on a commuter train before three traveling friends including two American service members was able to put him down without casualties.
The story itself is a truly inspiring tale of heroism. However, that doesn’t transfer to a great film. Eastwood’s gamble on the main characters not being trained actors doesn’t pay off. Sadler is the best in front of the camera between the three but that isn’t saying much. Stone and Skarlatos are very wooden but you can’t blame them given the spot they were put in. Honestly, you can’t even say that getting professional actors would have helped because looking at where this film fails, it’s the writing. You could forgive the heroes for not being the best actors if there was a compelling story here but there isn’t. You start off with a decent origin story about how three troubled kids became friends. Even the ending slowing building up the moment of the takedown is well done. So where does the film fail?
In the middle of the second act, the film seemly doesn’t know how to build up the days leading up to the attack and the film comes to a screeching halt as the main characters just play out a European Vacation on film. They walk, they talk, they take selfies, and nothing is happening. It’s like the guys are just ad-libbing dialogue that doesn’t work. This sequence is so bad and out-of-place, the entire film collapses on top of itself because of it.
The men of this film are brave heroes who saved countless lives but they deserved a better story with better writing. The 15:17 to Paris is a dull clunker that is almost 2/3rds of a decent movie but ultimately fails to impress its target audience, faith-based American patriots.