After the sheer duds that were “Jersey Boys,” and “Sully,” I was definitely ready for “The 15:17 to Paris” to be a riveting and emotional tale of true heroism in a dark world. The story of the Sacramento Hometown heroes is one of the great modern stories of heroism and courage in the face of sheer danger. And I could have thought of at least a dozen ways I would have loved to learn about this tale rather than a glorified television movie that’s pretty much a huge misstep in every direction. “The 15:17 to Paris” teeters back and forth between pure saccharine nonsense and baffling choices in filmmaking that kept me rolling my eyes and groaning throughout its run time.
I’m not sure why Clint Eastwood thought it would be a fine idea to cast the actual trio of heroes as themselves. I’m even more confused as to why Eastwood stuffs the supporting cast with comedy actors. There’s Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer, Jaleel White, Tony Hale and Thomas Lennon, all of whom are more distracting than anything. Clint Eastwood approaches the narrative with unapologetic, relentless jingoistic attitude that almost preaches to the audience. He props American flags in every shot, as well as mentioning the idea of religion as their source of heroism. He also turns our heroes into character devices who do nothing but pontificate about a “greater purpose” and being meant to do certain things in their lives. There’s almost nothing but clunky and nonsensical foreshadowing, after foreshadowing, after foreshadowing, ad exhaustion.
Eastwood’s interpretation of the event is a ninety minute bore with an hour worth of nothing but filler. There are the early days of the trio of heroes as wide eyed American children often too outspoken for their tightly wound Christian school. There’s the script portraying them as teenagers anxious to become heroes and defying a lot of authority because you know—they’re heroes. When we finally do get to what we were waiting for, it’s a rousing and harrowing event it’s slightly riveting but never compensates for the hour long filler, and endless stretching that the script pulls to account for a feature length film. What’s worse is that Eastwood casts the actual men that were there that fateful day and it’s sad because their performances are stiff. Often times they look like deer in headlights, unsure of where to hit their marks.
While it’s clever that the film is stuffed with great character actors to lessen the blow of their terrible on-screen turns, it’s still distracting. The film just never justifies why anyone thought it was a great idea, and in the end, it feels gimmicky and exploitative. To add to the baffling list of decisions Eastwood makes, when we finally reach the finale, Eastwood cuts to the actual footage of the men being greeted by the French government, and then cuts to actresses Fischer and Greer as their moms watching in pride. You assume Eastwood would have gone all the way bringing the actual mothers for this last shot, but her persists in a final head scratching move. The story of the trio of heroes who stopped an armed terrorist in 2015 is a wonderful tale that deserves to be celebrated, and I understand what director Eastwood likely intended, but “The 15:17 to Paris” is an abysmal almost unwatchable biopic with nothing new or unique to say.
The Release from Warner comes with a DVD copy, and Digital Copy. The features include “The 15:17 to Paris: Make Every Second Count,” an eight minute featurette focusing on making the movie, the casting, and the idea of filming on an actual moving train. “The 15:17 to Paris: Portrait of Courage” is a twelve minute segment focusing on Sadler, Stone, and Skarlatos, the three heroes, and their experiences on that day on August 21st 2015, and the events after.