Hot Take: While it’s perfectly understandable director Clint Eastwood’s desire to honor the heroes of the story, making them act out their tale of heroism isn’t the way to go. The three heroes might be able to stop a terrorist but they surely can’t act.
Usually a filmmaker has two choices — make a “Based on a True Story” recreation or record a documentary. Director Clint Eastwood has blazed a new path and instead used the actual heroes of the story to act out their tale. I guess the thought is to add realism to the re-telling but instead it shifts most of the focus to the horrific acting from these three amateurs and an anecdotal backstory that fails to deliver what seems to be an effort to convince the audience that it was the trios destiny to be on that train at that particular moment and instead makes it all seem like a fortunate coincidence that landed Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos on the train to Paris and put them in a position to be the heroes who took down a terrorist before he could carry out his plan.
Mr. Eastwood had the best intentions here. What better way to honor this trio of heroes than to let them star in a film about themselves? Well, have them portrayed by people who can act would have been a nice first step. While Stone, Sadler and Skarlatos definitely look the part, it’s hard to look past their novice acting skills since most of the film is about their back story. Sadly, the acting is more awkward than anything as you can tell these guys are proverbial fishes out of water here. While they certainly are geared up for a crisis as proven by their heroic act which is obviously the highlight of the film, wonky dialogue and documentary-like coverage of their vacation leading up to the fateful train journey to Paris where they stop an armed terrorist drag down this film into almost cringe-worthy moments.
If you feel the best way to honor this trio of heroes is to sit through their reenactment of their European vacation as if the cinema were one gigantic photo slide show then The 15:17 to Paris is likely for you. Add in the heavy handed and misguided theme of destiny which pops up throughout the film as another unwelcome element and you have one of Clint Eastwood’s worst films to date as either an actor or a director. While it’s rare for me to say this about any film, this time it is fitting: Skip the movie. Read the book instead.
The idea of stunt-casting the actual heroes despite their complete and utter lack of acting ability intrigues you.
The idea of a 110 minute back story to an event that took roughly 10 minutes to unfold sounds more painful than honorable.