“The 15:17 to Paris” stars Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer, and Ray Corasani. Released on February 9, 2018, the film has three Americans witnessing a terrorist attack aboard a train bound for Paris.
The film is directed by Clint Eastwood, who also directed films such as Unforgiven, Space Cowboys, Gran Torino, and Sully. It is based on the autobiography of the same name by Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos. This latest film from Eastwood is yet another true story about regular people who achieved the impossible. The only difference is that they have the real people behind this extraordinary accomplishment portray the Hollywood versions of themselves. This is something that we haven’t seen very often because we usually see biopics that have big-time celebrities play real-life icons, like Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in 42 and Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. So, it would be interesting to see if this type of strategy can help drive the film to success, especially when the talented Eastwood is in the director’s chair calling the shots.
If you’re expecting this film to follow the same narrative structure as Eastwood’s last film, Sully, like showcasing the during and after events of a certain courageous act and stuff, do me a favor and throw that thought out the window before you go see it. The film does show the Thalys train attack that happened almost three years ago, but that doesn’t happen until the final act. Instead, it spends the first two acts focusing on the ordinary lives of three long-time friends: Spencer, Anthony, and Alek. From their childhood experiences to their extraordinary acts of courage and responsibility, Clint Eastwood attempts to show the audience how their normal lives are like before their sense of bravery save thousands of lives. While there are many different alternatives that Eastwood could’ve used to tell a story like this, such as putting the train attack somewhere in the second act and show the main characters’ lives afterwards, the way he displayed it on screen was fine as it is. Compared to Eastwood’s other films, this one falls short in its storytelling, but boy, I think the critics were way too harsh on it. The actual people (Stone, Sadler, and Skarlatos) definitely act like their own selves in this film. They didn’t try too hard to deliver some Oscar-worthy performances. They just appeared in front of the camera and did what they normally do when they’re not on camera. As a result, the characters themselves are as likable as the actual people who portray them. The fact that the people online are attacking these three guys based on their acting talents still sickens me to this day. Clint Eastwood did a nice job at telling a story about ordinary people and their acts of courage that inspired everyone, even though its sense of dramatic depth couldn’t match the film’s attractive quality and the third act’s convincing use of tension. Another thing that I wasn’t fond of is this sequence where Spencer and Anthony are exploring Italy with this woman that they met on a boat ride. It really brought the film to a halt for me when that sequence happened. I think if they remove that sequence altogether or find a way to shorten it, then it would have been a lot better, but that’s just me.
Overall, “The 15:17 to Paris” once again proves that Clint Eastwood knows how to make an inspiring story investing and likable despite its shortcomings. The performances from the real-life heroes themselves, its memorable themes, and Eastwood’s direction were enough to overcome the film’s lack of deep storytelling and its unnecessary Italy sequence. Compared to the last two films I’ve seen from the director, I would say that this is his weakest effort in his directing career so far, but there is absolutely no way that it’s that bad. If you’re in a mood for some inspiration, try checking this one out. Don’t expect it to be anything like American Sniper or Unforgiven or any other great Eastwood film, and you should be fine.