Director Clint Eastwood’s last few films have dealt with true stories with the last being the great Sully. At least in that film he had Tom Hanks but with this new film, he takes a considerable risk by casting real life people to play themselves. Will the risk pay off?
Synopsis: In the early evening of August 21, 2015, the world watched in stunned silence as the media reported a thwarted terrorist attack on Thalys train #9364 bound for Paris—an attempt prevented by three courageous young Americans traveling through Europe. The film follows the course of the friends’ lives, from the struggles of childhood through finding their footing in life, to the series of unlikely events leading up to the attack. Throughout the harrowing ordeal, their friendship never wavers, making it their greatest weapon and allowing them to save the lives of the more than 500 passengers on board. (Warner Bros)
Starring: Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, and Spencer Stone
Writer: Dorothy Blyskal
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: 14A (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 94mins
For showtimes and more, check out The 15:17 to Paris on movietimes.com.
The answer to the above question is a resounding no. Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, and Spencer Stone are not actors and it showed here and it just wasn’t realistic to expect much from them to begin with. They were simply one of many missteps throughout the film. Just like Sully tried to extend the story, this film did so in a haphazard way, intercutting between glimpses of the train in which Skarlatos, Sadler, and Stone thwart a terrorist attack and the events leading up to it, starting off with the three as children (Bryce Gheisar, Paul-Mikél Williams, and William Jennings as Skerlatos, Sadler, and Stone respectively) and ending with the train sequence in which the film is based.
Another problem with the film was that it will take a while until we get there with the majority of the story focusing on the three men’s somehow rushed and meandering backstory of the three men that wasn’t even a backstory as it didn’t add anything to the story. It was incredibly dull, pointless, and was a chore to watch, producing nothing but cringe-worthy moments. The story was cheesy, the dialog was laughably bad, and the performances, including Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer as Skarlatos and Stone’s mothers, were terrible. What was interesting about this, however, was the lack of backstory for Sadler.
The dullness and cringe-worthy moments continued with the three men becoming adults. After Skarlatos and Stone’s brief time in the military, it was time for them to take a trip through Europe. The best way to describe this part of the story was the equivalent of being forced to look at someone’s vacation photos. The story went to Venice, Berlin, and Amsterdam before going to Paris but the film was so poorly shot that it failed to take advantage of these locales. This was still very pointless and its sole purpose was to steer the three to their eventual destination in a very heavy-handed way.
Regardless of what happened, the film had a chance to somewhat redeem itself with the train sequence but this unfortunately was the final nail in the coffin. Not only was the lead-up to it underwhelming, intercutting it with the rest of the story made it feel disjointed as a whole and devoid it of any tension once the moment finally came because we already got to see most of it by then. The sequence was difficult to watch as the camera couldn’t keep up with the characters or the action on screen.
As mentioned, the acting in the film is terrible. Skarlatos, Sadler, and Stone are not actors so they sort of get a pass. Decent acting could very well have made up for many of the film’s shortcomings but their lifeless performances, as well as those of their younger counterparts, sunk the film. What was surprising was how bad the supporting cast of actual actors were. From Greer and Fischer to P.J. Byrne, Thomas Lennon, and Tony Hale, they were just as bad as the three non-actors if not worse. Ultimately, all the performances could partially be attributed to the atrocious script and direction.
Overall, this was one of the worst films I have ever seen with little to no redeeming qualities whatsoever. This was a dull, poorly shot, and haphazardly put together film full of cringe-worthy moments coming from terrible performances fueled by a terrible script with laughable dialog. It may be an important story but not all important stories deserve to be made into films. You won’t learn anything new watching this film or get the whole story as it deifies Skarlatos, Sadler, and Stone above all else so just look it up online instead. At least it’s not Septic Man.