Released: 8th January 2018 (Australia)
Seen: 12th February 2018
Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler are heroes. Let’s get that out of the way right up top. These three men saw a terrorist with guns and, on their own, took him out and saved hundreds of lives in the process. Nothing I say about them for the remainder of this review can ever or will ever take away from the fact that they are genuine heroes who should be respected for their service and for the risk they took. They are heroes… they just aren’t actors.
The 15:17 To Paris is a story about the three men who, while on vacation through Europe, get on a train to Paris that also happens to contain a lone gunman who plans on committing an act of terror on the train. Spencer, Alek and Anthony take him out… but before we get to that, we have to get through their life story in a long series of sequences that tell us little to nothing about anyone involved and in most cases, portrays these heroes as unsavoury.
There’s Spencer, an army obsessed kid who is constantly late for classes and may have some form of ADD, it’s never explained. It’s mentioned, but not explored or even really addressed. We know he loves the army though because he’s the kind of boy who turns up to class in camo, even when he’s playing basketball (And no that choice wasn’t clearly made by the director to make sure the two lead boys stood out in that particular scene) or when he’s in his room at night. Inevitably he goes through Army training, doesn’t get the specific position he wanted, contemplates dropping out, then signs up for a different job, believes he was destined for great things and eventually takes down a terrorist and he does all of this without anything resembling a personality. It’s stunning how flat the man’s line delivery is, and this is the actual guy. This is why this movie is so tough to review because as a person I respect the hell out of Spencer (And the others, we’ll get to them) for what he did but as an actor? No. No sorry, not even close to what one could consider a competent actor. He says the lines like it’s the first time he’s ever heard them, and he allegedly said them in real life.
Alek is a little more interesting, even though his child version is played by someone who appeared in A Dog’s Purpose which is kind of a sore spot for me. He is more of the fun charmer who is also the son of parent’s who separated and eventually lives with his dad because Principal Tom Lennon thought it was a good idea because Alek is also late to class. Not even kidding here, the only trouble Alek and Spencer get into during the school scenes are that they’re late to class twice and that apparently means they’re troubled enough for Principal Tom Lennon to interfere with Alek’s home life and get his dad to take him to a different state. Alek is then barely seen again for a considerable amount of time, he works in Afganistan for a while which is apparently very boring, pops up in Amsterdam without so much as a hello and then is the one to knock the terrorist unconscious later on (This is public record, not a spoiler). He’s also the best actor in the film, by far. He has a natural charm that really makes his scenes shine and I genuinely hope that he takes this as a new career for a while and maybe does some action films cos he has so much potential that I believe he’d be really quite good.
Then there’s Anthony… Anthony is black and takes selfies and I swear to god that is all the personality they will show you. It’s actually insanely painful how poorly he’s used because he deserved better. He does the opening narration and calls his friends “Crackers” which would be fine if we ever saw that personality again, here it feels like it’s tacked on the be edgy. Oh, and then he’s a side character. He does the opening narration and isn’t the focus of the story. The focus is on Spencer, Anthony doesn’t get anything. He’s apparently in detention a lot and, as a child, get’s the 1 allotted use of the word “Shit” to keep this film at a PG-13 and it’s kind of annoying. He barely get’s anything to do, there’s an extended scene where all he’s doing it using a selfie stick and snapping photos, or having photos snapped of him but that’s it. In the final scene, he’s there… damned if I know what he did. He’s the one who gets the worst treatment by this film, I’m absolutely certain that he he did something since he helped subdue the gunman along with Chris Norman but I’ll be damned if they show that.
Oh yeah, Chris Norman… he’s in the film technically but never named, never addressed. Possibly because he’s not a good old American army boy and therefore isn’t part of the concept they were trying to sell this movie on. He’s awkwardly placed there at the end because they had to put him there when they clearly used substandard stock news broadcast in the finale, but you could’ve told me it was a random extra and I’d of bought it.
Oh and speaking of weird casting, I don’t know why but for some reason the school the boys go to is entirely staffed by comedians. Tom Lennon is the principal, Tony Hale is the gym teacher and Urkel, Jaleel White, is the history teacher. You could legitimately make a pretty awesome comedy with that cast and for some reason, those specific actors are playing the teachers in this drama… not saying comics can’t be serious but could we maybe not staff an entire school with them? It’s the weirdest most random thing in this movie and I had to bring it up because it blew my brain up.
What hurts this film most is the script, it’s appallingly bad. Dialogue is laughable, there are no setups or transitions. People just appear without any reaction. Alek literally pops between countries like it’s nothing and that’s kind of annoying. What’s most annoying is how bad the assembling of this film is. Here we have a story that should be compelling, but it’s muddled as hell. They cut between the train attack and the lives of the three soldiers but it’s done so badly. They not only time jump but after they’ve shown some major moments of the train attack, they repeat the footage just in case you forgot. This was not well planned out at all and the writer of this script needed to be someone else, maybe someone who actually wrote a biopic before. I could almost forgive the clunky performances if the script was written properly.
This is easily Clint Eastwood’s worst film, and it sucks that I have to say that because he made it out of love for some genuine heroes who deserve nothing but admiration for what they did. I wish nothing but the best for them and I hope that they all make the most of their lives, if they want to keep acting I hope they’re all taking lessons. I want Alek to be in an action blockbuster soon because he’s clearly made for that, I want Spencer to work on his acting and maybe be in something that shows of the funny side I could barely see there that I wanna see him thrice in and I really wanna see Anthony get a role that’s more than just photos and race. These men are heroes and when given the chance to tell their story, it was ruined by a substandard script and a director who is off his game.