'The 15:17 to Paris': Dramatically passive and disappointing (Hollywood Movie Review)
Film: "The 15:17 to Paris"; Director: Clint Eastwood; Cast: Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Judy Greer, Jeena Fischer, William Jennings, Bryce Gheisar, Paul-Mikel Williams, Thomas Lennon, P.J. Byrne and Tony Hale; Rating: **
Directed by Clint Eastwood with the actual heroes (non-actors) in the lead roles, this is the story of the three young American lads who thwarted a terrorist attack on the titular train from Amsterdam to Paris in the early evening of August 21, 2015.
The three childhood friends - US Air Force Airman Spencer Stone, Army man Alek Skarlatos and civilian student Anthony Sadler, board a train from Amsterdam Central Station to Paris at the end of their back-pack trip across Europe.
How they pinned the bare-chested terrorist and saved about 500 lives on board could have actually been the crux of the film. But instead, the scriptwriter Dorothy Blyskal's screenplay gets into revealing the backstory of the three lads.
She takes us back to their schooling days in Sacramento, California in 2005 and drip feeds us with the non-specific events till the most momentous event of their lives when they are tired and hungover and stirred by the appearance of a bare-chested terrorist wielding an AK-47 in their coach.
The narrative lacks nuance, texture or soul. Moving on an even keel, the film drags with no drama, twists or even entertainment. While the film establishes the characters and the setting, it fails to delve into the plot of the attack and its aftermath. Also with the slant towards patriotism and religion, the narrative seems forced and laundered.
The screenplay is initially cheesy and the actual action-packed dramatic event, the exciting part, in fact comes at the near end. It is as good as a blink-and-you-miss scene. Albeit a bit of an exaggeration, but yes, it is too minuscule and you feel cheated of your ticket money. Also, the film seems to be wrapped up in a hurry as it leaves a few unanswered questions in an inquisitive viewer's mind.
As for the performances, the younger version of Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler are played by child actors William Jennings, Bryce Gheisar and Paul-Mikel Williams. They lay a strong and impressive foundation for the older real guys, who play themselves.
Since the film focuses more on Stone, we get to see more of him. He is impressive especially with his physical workouts. Skarlatos is charming and Anthony who is relegated to just a few scenes, is uninspiring.
Ray Corasini as the terrorist is wasted in a non-speaking role, where he emerges from the bathroom, shirtless and bedecked with weapons, he is quickly thrashed and silenced.
Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer as Stone and Skarlatos's single parent mothers are impressive in their run-of-the-mill scenes.
On the technical front, Eastwood's loyal team consisting of cinematographer Tom Stern, costume designer Deborah Hopper, editor Blu Murray, composer Christian Jacob and art director Kevin Ishioka, deliver competently.
Overall, this film that reveals "the extraordinary acts of humanity," is thematically muddled and dramatically passive.