The 15:17 to Paris is the perfect example of a heroic moment in time that is best suited for a short telling of how it all went down. There’s no denying that the three men (Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler) are heroes, but it’s that moment on the train where they stopped a terrorist from opening fire on those on board the train that people want to hear about…not how they repeatedly got detention in grade school or how much they enjoyed their trip across Europe before getting on said train.
In fact, one of the special features on this disc is just over eight minutes in length, has interviews with the three men, as well as Mark Moogalian and his wife, Isabelle, who were also on the train alongside the three men. In fact, Mark was the first person to tackle gunman El-Khazzani and take his AK-47 assault rifle, only to be shot with another gun in the back by El-Khazzani while fleeing with his rifle. Spencer, Alek, Anthony and Mark all talk about what went down, the tension can be felt in their voices clear and natural, making the moment even more impactful in this eight-minute featurette than it was with an almost 90-minute buildup in the film.
And that’s the main issue with The 15:17 to Paris, in that it’s just filled with padding. It’s incredibly boring, and just doesn’t do the story justice because it’s not a story that should’ve been made into a feature film in the first place. The screenplay is written by Dorothy Blyskal (based off the book written by Spencer, Alek, Anthony and Jeffrey E. Stern) and it begins with El-Khazzani getting on the train, then quickly jumps to the three Americans driving down the street in a convertible, with Anthony giving a voice-over telling the audience who each of them are, and how they’d been friends since they were kids. The voice-over is quickly abandoned, and we’re zapped back in time to watch the three boys get into trouble repeatedly for almost the entire first act of the film.
Not only is it wholeheartedly disinteresting, but it’s so poorly acted – even by the talented Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer, who play Spencer and Alek’s mom’s in the film. It’s like they became terrible for these parts just to fit in with the rest of the acting in the movie. It doesn’t help that the dialogue in the script is often so bad that you may actually get a visual of the inside of your skull with how far back your eyes will roll back at times.
From their childhood we jump to them as adults, with Spencer wanting to join the military in some fashion, Alek already being in the military, and Anthony being around. I think he was going to school or something. The main focus of the movie is on Spencer, as he attempts to become a Perarescue jumper. It’s just so repetitive and bland, and what doesn’t help is that Clint Eastwood decided to use the actual people involved to make this movie instead of actors.
So while it was a chance to take, it failed miserably, as these guys just aren’t actors on even the smallest of levels. I can’t knock them for that, as it’s not their fault. They were asked to do it, and I’m sure they figured it’d be doable with Eastwood’s guidance and all, but it just didn’t work, and this decision makes many scenes even more cringe-worthy than they may have been had an actual actor been hired on in an attempt to make the weak script somewhat come to life.
Instead, we’re basically watching these three guys awkwardly reenact their trip to Europe for about 25-30 minutes of this 93-minute movie. Yes, the second act is basically these three guys walking around Europe and taking selfies, while constantly wondering if they should go to Paris or not. To top it off, Spencer and Anthony even have a moment on top of a building with Spencer asking Anthony if he “ever felt like life is catapulting him towards something. Some greater purpose?” and, “Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a choice. Like life is pushing me towards something.” Now, I mean, it’s possiblethis happened, but it seems so fake that I find it incredibly hard to believe that this was said, like, a day or two before they stopped a terrorist on a train. This may have been the point where my eyes did a full 360 spin while I shook my head.
Then, in the final, say, six to eight minutes they finally get on the train, and within a few minutes the gunman appears, Mark tries to stop him and is shot, and then Spencer, Alek and Anthony take over, beat him into submission, and then Spencer tends to Mark’s wound until the train stops and paramedics arrive. So we’ve spent about 80-minutes to get to the point of the movie most people went to see it for, it’s over in the blink of an eye, and if anything, the climactic event doesn’t even feel all that climactic because of how much mind-numbing filler was in the rest of the film.
Again, none of this takes away from the heroics of these four men. They all did something that was incredibly brave, and risked their lives to save others, and they succeeded. I think it’s incredible what they did, and nothing can take away from that. But as a movie, the story was just so unnecessary and poorly told that it fails to capture what went down with any sort of tension or make the audience cheer for this triumph over evil because the previous hour and change was so damn boring, with the pivotal 20-30 minutes leading into the film’s climax basically coming off like a big-budget ad for traveling around Europe directed by Clint Eastwood.
If you’re interested in learning about the backstory of the three men this film is based on, then maybe you’ll find a bit of entertainment value here, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. If you’re mainly intrigued by the story of what went down on the train, then you’re likely best to hunt down some news stories on the subject, or a piece on the event that mirrors the eight-minute special feature found on this disc that really captures what the movie couldn’t with 10 times the duration.
The movie looks good, and it sounds fine. There’s nothing to really knock on this front, as Eastwood has a great eye and the production team did solid job. But when there’s no interest to be had in what’s happening on the screen, how it looks doesn’t really help it in this situation.
The 15:17 to Paris: Making Every Second Count – This is the eight-minute feature I spoke of multiple times in the review that really captures everything audiences wanted to see about what went down. Here, Spencer, Alek, Anthony, Mark and his wife Isabelle all talk naturally (without the pressure of trying to act and failing at it miserably) about everything that happened in those brief minutes on the train, the intensity of it, and what was going through their heads. If you do rent or buy this for whatever reason, make sure you watch this featurette.
The 15:17 to Paris: Portrait of Courage = This feature is twelve and a half minutes long and focuses on the three men and their experiences on that day and in the time afterwards.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Presents The 15:17 to Paris. Directed by: Clint Eastwood. Written by: Dorothy Blyskal. Based on the book by: Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler and Jeffrey E. Stern Starring: Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer. Running time: 93 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: May 22, 2018.
Tags: Clint Eastwood, The 15:17 to Paris