We had literary adaptation train movies (Girl on the Train, Murder on the Orient Express) and action train movies (The Commuter). Now, it’s time for a train based biographical picture: The 15:17 to Paris!
IMDb summary: n 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 15:17 to Paris was written by Dorothy Blyskal (as her first screenplay), based on the book with an incredible unnecessarily long title – ‘The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Soldiers’ by a journalist Jeffrey E. Stern and the three titular American soldiers: Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos. Both the book and the movie recount the real events that happened in the summer of 2015. I can’t really comment on the book as I haven’t read it, but I don’t think that the movie’s writing was successful, mostly because the stopped terrorist attack wasn’t a big enough event to base the whole movie around – it lasted but a moment in real life as well as in the movie. Thus, The 15:17 to Paris focused mostly on the lives of its 3 heroes, and the said lives also didn’t make for a very compelling story.
- The countless flashbacks and the whole backstory were fine, at best. The scenes actually improved the closer in the timeline to the actual event on the train they got. Thematically, the movie looked at a lot of very American concepts, like their obsession with guns and radical Christianity and also, their quite terrible public school system. The movie also was also really pushy with its message and laid it on thick. I could have done without that many scenes of the guys saying ‘oh, I feel like my life is pushing me towards something’. We get it, it is pushing you towards that one heroic moment. However, that moment would have seen more heroic if you haven’t told us numerous times that you will be heroic soon.
- The 15:17 to Paris was directed by Clint Eastwood, who was obviously expecting to have another Sully on his hands. And while both stories are similar (constructed out of flashbacks and have ordinary people doing extraordinary things), the quality of the final products differs significantly. While I thought that Eastwood did a good enough job with the pacing (the moment on the train was intense) and the editing (the flashbacks did blend seamlessly), I really think he misfired with the casting of the non-professional actors.
- The three leads of the film were portrayed by the actual real people: the 3 heroes were played by the actual 3 heroes. It was nice of Eastwood to honor them and their story by allowing them to tell it/act it out themselves. Though, it must have been a bizarre experience for them to play themselves. Also, the idea to cast real people to play themselves must have sounded like an amazing marketing opportunity and/or a creative experiment to reach almost documentary-like levels of authenticity. It didn’t work, though.
- While Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos seemed like they tried, they really could not act. They were relatively fine in the physical scenes but the dialogue and the emotional stuff really escaped them: the majority of the lines were delivered in an incredibly stiff and wooden manner. The kid actors playing their younger counterparts were also awful, which is inexcusable nowadays, knowing how many amazing young actors are currently working. Even professional actresses Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer, who played the mothers of the heroes, didn’t deliver great performances.
In short, The 15:17 to Paris was a poorly written picture that wasn’t helped by the acting. The only thing it had going for it was a striking name and Eastwood’s seasoned directing.
Trailer: The 15:17 to Paris