Clint Eastwood has an impressive acting résumé, but some might argue he’s an even better director. With iconic films such as Gran Torino, American Sniper, and Unforgiven under his belt, most people take note when a new Clint Eastwood directorial project is in the works. Eastwood’s latest directorial effort is The 15:17 to Paris, a unique film that follows the 2015 Thalys train attack in France. Our review of The 15:17 to Paris will cover just how unique this film truly is.
The 15:17 to Paris feels almost like a documentary more so than an intense drama. Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, and Spencer Stone, the real-life heroes of the attack, all play themselves in the film. Most of the screen time is devoted to these three, and while it’s clear they’re not professional actors, the lack of over dramatization almost makes the film feel more authentic. Many of the passengers on the fated train are also the same people from the actual train attack.
Eastwood aided the authentic feeling by limiting the score of the film. In fact, the film has very little in terms of score, with most scenes involving only dialogue no musical accompaniment. It’s these parts of the film where it feels more like a documentary than a Hollywood drama. Unfortunately, it’s also a reason many people may be turned off by the film.
The 15:17 to Paris starts off on the titular train, but quickly jumps back to the three heroes in their youth. Throughout most of the first act, we see how the three friends grew up together, with Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer playing the mothers of Stone and Skarlatos in this early portion of the film. There are quite a few faces some people may recognize here, including Thomas Lennon and Jaleel White.
Occasionally the film flashes forward to the train, as events start to slowly play out, which keeps the childhood years of these three heroes somewhat interesting. However, there’s a long period with no flashes to the attack that feels like it drags on for far too long. While it’s good to know the backstory of these heroes, how they became friends, and how they ended up on the train, there are more than a few scenes that feel unnecessary and borderline boring. More frequent flashes of the train or less backstory would have made the film flow a bit smoother.
While the film only runs just over 90 minutes, some of the portions that drag on making the film feel like it’s much closer to two hours in length. This works against The 15:17 to Paris because, by the time we see a majority of the attack, it feels like a huge build up with minimal payoff. Yes, the deeds of these people were incredibly heroic, but the entire attack only lasts a few minutes, even in movie time. Dragging out childhood portions of the film doesn’t make the payoff any better.
If you’re a fan of Eastwood’s directorial efforts, this one isn’t great, but it’s not all that bad either. The slow pacing doesn’t work for a Hollywood drama, but if you go into The 15:17 to Paris expecting something more along the lines of a documentary, it’s a solid film. Even with expectations in check, there’s really no need to see this one in theaters, but it’s definitely worth the watch at home.
About The 15:17 to Paris
Synopsis: Three Americans discover a terrorist plot aboard a train while in France.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Dorothy Blyskal, Anthony Sadler
Stars: Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone
Runtime: 1 Hour, 34 Minutes