Reviewed by: Ryan McLelland

I think the most amazing achievement of The 15:17 To Paris is that Clint Eastwood, at age 87, can still deliver some amazing action sequences and one beautiful looking film. The past few years Clint has done some great pro-American films like American Sniper and Sully. 15:17 continues this tradition even though it really is a mess of a film overall.

The problem with the film is that the actual terrorist event on the train where three American friends take down a terrorist while on the way to Paris is quite short. So the film then goes over their life as children which does nothing to drive the narrative beyond that they were childhood friends. Then two characters join the military and the film then comes off like a recruitment video. There’s also a bunch of military speak never explained to the audience. I got it all because I’ve been to MEPS, taken my ASVAB, and so on. If you’re non-military you may be like, “What the hell are they talking about?!?”

Finally the three friends go on an European backpacking trip. I thought it was really cool that Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos got to play themselves in this film. They are featured in most of the film which must be cool for them. But they are definitely not actors and it shows nearly every second they are on-screen. Stone has this great awe-schucks feel to him so I’m glad they centered the film on him. He seems to be the most interesting of the three.

Still this very long backpacking section through Italy, Germany, and Amsterdam just comes off like a travelogue. It feels like there was no script. Like they just grabbed the camera and went to a bunch of sites. Maybe that’s great for those who have never been to Amsterdam or Rome, but as I’ve already been I was hoping for much better storytelling and not stale conversation between non-actors walking around The Colosseum or various bars.

When we finally get to the train attack it really got the juices flowing. This sequence was shot and edited quite well. I couldn’t imagine going through that actual experience and then having to go and reenact it in a big budget feature film. So my hats off to Spencer, Anthony, and Alek for that. But beyond that? The movie doesn’t really give you much. Really this could have been an incredibly suspenseful thirty minutes short film.

There were some interesting casting choices including Judy Greer as Stone’s mom, Jenna Fischer as Alek’s mom, Thomas Lennon as a principal, Tony Hale as a gym teacher, and Jaleel White as a teacher. Most of the time Family Matters, Arrested Development, Reno 911, and The Office were going through my brain when I saw them. Tony Hale’s non-caring teacher cracked me up. Seeing Jaleel in the film was way awesome but his role was very small. That jerk kid from Wonder played young Alek as a kid and he wasn’t a jerk in this. But he was so good as a mean kid in Wonder that I disliked him here just because of that role. I call if Joffrey Syndrome.

The film truly feels like a disjointed mess with a script that may have been thirty pages long. I wanted to love the film but it did not deliver. I doubt any of the real heroes will get cast in other films, but I’d love to Spencer Stone in another film. I liked him in this even if his acting could use some work. The movie is able to recreate the train ordeal beautifully, but it’s too bad it’s packaged into a 90 minute film that feels like it took five hours to watch.


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