The 15:17 to Paris Review

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The story of how three Americans thwarted a potential terrorist attack on board a train to Paris

by Sharuna Warner Feb 9, 2018 at 10:25 PM

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    The 15:17 to Paris Review

    Clint Eastwood’s latest film attempts to reconstruct another American feat of bravery, this time using the real life men at the heart of the story.

    The 15:17 To Paris tells the heroic story of three Americans who bravely managed to disarm a terrorist on board a train from Amsterdam without any fatalities back in March 2015. The act saw them being awarded the French Legion of Honour from President Hollande. So with the main event of the film known by many people already the question becomes: what’s the rest of the film about?
    Eastwood has already directed two films in the last four years that detail the heroics of two men who are now American heroes (Sully and American Sniper). They were relatively well received by audiences, and with many other successful films under his belt, one might be forgiven for thinking that Clint Eastwood’s latest attempt to depict yet another act of bravery would follow along a similar path.

    The 15:17 to Paris
    With the main events of the film held back until the last ten or so minutes it leaves roughly eighty minutes or so of dull, boring and bland exposition and set up. Eastwood’s decision to use the actual men to play themselves was perhaps a brave and bold move. I mean, who’s going to play them better than themselves? That said, it doesn’t quite pay off. These men are not actors and it shows. The script by Dorothy Blyskal adapted from the book The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes written by Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler and Jeffery Stern doesn’t do these men any favours with stiff dialogue and questionably profound conversations that doubtfully ever took place. It does however, just about manage to show the chemistry between the three of them which is one of the few positives that can be taken from the film.

    The opening of the film sets up the childhood of our soon to be heroes. With a penchant for warfare and guns, it’s clear to see the direction the boys would eventually head towards. The focus starts off and remains with Spencer who is shown to be the all around nice guy determined to do good from the get go. Actresses Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer are brought in to play the mothers of Spencer and Skarlatos, respectively, but were dealt an equally poor hand when it comes to dialogue. Similarly, the early set up using the young actors brought in to play the younger versions of the men are so awful it’s almost a relief when the real men come back on screen. As the three boys grow up and go their separate ways we follow as Spencer fails to get into the US Airforce but remains within the US Army, all complete with the cliched ‘get fit’ montage.

    Eastwood’s film fails to add any insight into the already well documented events

    What follows is a tour around Europe, mostly Italy and Amsterdam, as the three head off on a road trip to see the main attractions and take numerous selfies along the way. It would be quite easy to forget what it is that you’re watching if it wasn’t for a couple of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flash forwards to the events on board the train, clearly inserted to remind audiences of what the film is (trying) to build up to. But it fails to inject any excitement or tension to this dull travelogue sort of documentary-like set up as Spensor, Skarlatos and Sadler retrace their steps before their acts of bravery. And this is where it begins to feel slightly ethically wrong as a viewer, because you're eagerly awaiting the dramatic finale, but when it does arrive its over just as soon as it starts.

    I really cannot see the point in this film as the bravery shown by these three men perhaps would have been better suited to a documentary, one that went on to show the aftermath of the events that unfolded on the train and how it affected them afterwards. Instead, what we are given is a lads out on the lash holiday journal that failed to do justice to their heroic and selfless actions that undoubtably saved many lives and prevented numerous casualties.


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