The 15:17 to Paris, D
Rated PG-13, 94 minutes
The new drama "The 15:17 to Paris" is more like The 15:17 to boredom. Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood tells the worthy story of three Americans who helped prevent a major terrorist attack in Europe in August, 2015. What could've been an inspiring look at how normal people rise up to become heroes reeks of banality and semi-patriotism, hurt by Eastwood's big mistake of casting the real heroes - all non-actors - as themselves.
The film tells the real-life story of three men whose brave act turned them into heroes during a high-speed railway ride. 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 - Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos (all playing themselves) - traveling through Europe.
The flat, lackluster "The 15:17 to Paris" is Eastwood's weakest, least important film in years, and his mistakes diminish what could've been a satisfying story. The film's last half-hour is its best as it recreates the tense train attack, the rest is a tedious ride of unnecessary filler and backstory. Eastwood directs a script from Dorothy Blyskal and is based on the book "The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes" that Stone, Sadler and Skarlatos co-authored.
The film's chief flaw - and it's a huge one - is the casting of the three real heroes as themselves. Eastwood did so to add an air of authenticity to the proceedings, but it's a big gamble that doesn't payoff; these guys, as admirable as it seems to cast them here, can't act (Stone tries - a little, Sadler mugs too much and Skarlatos has a deer-in-the headlights look). It's a painful distraction to watch these guys attempt to believably recite lines, hurting the film and casting doubt on Eastwood's skills as a director.
Had the acting been better, "15:17's" story could've really resonated, and not helped by the fact Eastwood makes another crucial mistake by adding some "let the Americans save the world" type of patriotism that cheapens the story. He may have also been more effective by making it documentary-style and focusing on the attack itself, instead of focusing on so many unnecessary details, such as who ordered beer on their trip.
The real actors here, including Judy Greer ("Ant-Man") and Jenna Fischer ("The Office") as mothers of two of the men, are wasted, and there are inexplicable, even bizarre cameos by "Veep's" Tony Hale, Jaleel White (TV's Urkel) and comedian Thomas Lennon; and for whatever reason, Sadler's backstory nearly seems to be omitted entirely, as we know very little about him or his family.
Had it not been for the tense last few minutes recreating the attack (the only thing Eastwood seems to do well here), "The 15:17 to Paris" would've been close to unwatchable. It comes across as a TV movie of the week, and not even a good one at that.