Written by Aaron Radcliff:
I’m just gonna come out and say it because there’s no way I can sugarcoat this: This wasn’t a good movie. I may be cutting to the chase but sometimes it has to be done for the good of everyone involved, which is a philosophy that should’ve applied to this movie.
The 15:17 to Paris tells the story of three childhood friends as they go off and live their lives and have experiences and travel Europe. Oh, they also stop a terrorist attack on a train, but why focus on that when we can spend 25 minutes touring Italy and Germany? It’s not like the marketing and main draw of the movie was the actual Thalys train attack or anything like that, right?
This movie has a bit of a focus issue. While everything about it is meant to draw us in to the events on the train, we only get about two minutes of that in the first hour with the actual attack taking up about 10 of the movie’s final 20 minutes. The rest of the movie instead focuses on the lives of our 3 main characters: Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos (all portrayed by the actual people rather than actors). While we get moments with each of the men and what was going on with their lives, the lion’s share of the focus is on Spencer. Truthfully, this should’ve been a movie about him.
We spend so much time with him that everyone else becomes accessories rather than any integral part of the movie, and that’s a big problem. I feel like if this was more of an autobiographical film about Spencer then a lot of the scenes that go nowhere and unimportant details become mitigated and feel less pointless. That’s what a movie like Megan Leavey did well: Focuses on one person with their life and struggles, making the big events more impactful when they come along. In fact, I found various parts of Spencer’s story to be quite interesting. Having the focus be entirely on him could’ve made for a more engaging film.
At the very least it could’ve been done 24-style where the first 20 minutes or so can focus on the friends traveling and then the rest can be the events of that day. Instead, we get 90% of the runtime being things we don’t care about or brief snippets that you’ll forget about until they eventually play a part in the end of the movie.
The fact that the three men aren’t actors isn’t really a problem. Yes, it’s obvious they don’t have experience (one of them in particular drags down several of the scenes he’s in), but they don’t really do much to hurt or help the movie. If anything, it was nice to see the people who actually lived through it (even the guy who got shot on the train) portray the events.
This just didn’t feel like a Clint Eastwood-directed movie. The best comparison I saw was Tommy Wiseau. While that’s a little mean, it makes sense given countless scenes that go nowhere, bland and uninteresting dialogue, and faulty focus. So much of this just feels like a slideshow that really only interests the family and friends of those the story is about.
I feel bad being so down on this. I really do. Everyone involved in stopping the attack that day are heroes and they deserve to be recognized for what they did and they certainly deserve their story being told in a better manner than it was here. It’s well-intentioned and has its heart in the right place but little else.
Score: 5 out of 10
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures