Friday, February 9, 2018

The 15:17 to Paris: Movie Review

A heroic ending with a muddled beginning and nothing in between.

Based on the true events of a terrorist attack successfully thwarted on a train from Amsterdam to Paris in August of 2015, The 15:17 to Paris is mostly a reminder that 5 minute events should not become two hour movies. Granted it does run 94 minutes, and director Clint Eastwood wanted to focus on the lives of the men before their heroic actions, but ultimately only the final 15 minutes were good and everything else he wanted to say got muddled in the mundaneness of life. 2018

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Screenplay by: Dorothy Blyskal
Based on the book by Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Jeffrey E. Stone

Starring: Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone

The main takeaway that I presume the film wants us to note is that anybody can be a hero; you just need to do something in a moment of crisis. This story is about three heroes who did the right thing when the wrong time and place were upon them. And perhaps my favourite touch of the whole movie, the three heroes played themselves and they were the lead characters. There are some problems with this: they don’t have a particularly compelling presence and the painfully poor dialogue is all that more noticeable, but we as an audience still get to celebrate the real heroes and not actors playing heroes.

But let’s go back to the beginning when the film really couldn’t decide what story they were telling. It starts with three boys quickly becoming fast friends since they were all trouble-makers. It was suggested that Alek and Spencer were bullied, and the school just placed the blame for their inability to concentrate back on their single mothers – but we never saw them get bullied so we can’t really take either side (Anthony was bullied, but his wasn’t discussed at all). Is this an example of schools covering up bullying? Or a school over-stepping their parental boundaries? Or boys acting out from a dysfunctional upbringing? Who knows, all of it was hinted at, none of it was fully discussed. There was probably a good angle in their somewhere but no good follow through.

The one thing that was carried throughout the movie was this Christian-based theme. All of the characters were very religious, but again it seemed like something the film really wanted to talk about (we come back to it regularly) but can’t decide what exactly to say.

We jump ahead to college-aged Alek, Spencer and Anthony, geographically separated for years but still friends. We spend very little time with Anthony and Alek at this time and just watch Spencer struggle his way into the Armed Forces. Alek also eventually joins the Army.

By the time we reach approach the events of the film, things really slow down. At least one-third is spent watching the boys hang out in Europe. Some nice locales in Italy and Amsterdam, but nothing happens for a very long time. The lack of acting training is also noticeable when you ask people to just hang out, in front of a camera, on a movie set, that hanging out doesn’t look very natural and no way the boys had such philosophically-moronic conversations in real life.

By the end, through the action on the train, I actually enjoyed it. Ultimately, it’s a movie about celebrating heroes. Heroes who could be anybody, come from anywhere, and do anything. A story about celebrating the best of humanity (if only for a short period of time) which is a pretty good message. Too bad they spent the rest of the movie saying nothing at all.