The movie “15:17 to Paris” was based on an incredible story.
Clint Eastwood made the movie and during his preparation to make and cast the film he interviewed the three American men who helped stop a terrorist attack on a train between Amsterdam and Paris. During those interviews he decided to have the men play themselves in the movie.
That was a mistake.
There is a reason Steven Spielberg used Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep instead of newspaper reporters and managers in “The Post.” Actors act. It’s right there in the name.
The guys playing themselves really only affected the last half of the movie. The first half was a strange look back at their childhoods where the young men were portrayed as well-meaning kids who just couldn’t stay out of trouble in a Christian school that somehow found Jaleel White – Erckel from Family Matters for those of you old enough to remember him – as a teacher in the school and Thomas Lennon – Lt. Dangle from Reno 911 – as the Principal of the school. Let’s just say using the actual heroes to play themselves wasn’t the only risky casting choice in this film.
Jenna Fischer – Pam from The Office – was the mother of one of the boys.
The boys were constantly in trouble for minor sins. They had a teacher recommend that they be treated for ADD with medications, they were separated when one friend left the school on his own and by the school getting involved in a custody battle and recommending that another one of the boys go live with his father in Oregon.
The jumpy jagged timeline with constant fleeting fast forwards into the actual terrorist event were ridiculous. The ham-handed inept script writers trying to force something akin to Christian sounding platitudes like “My God is bigger than your statistics!” was unsettling. I’m pretty sure the Christian school teacher wasn’t discounting God’s help in the situation.
Somehow, even using the actual actors re-enacting their own story didn’t feel real. The “hey, let’s take a selfie everywhere” storyline was odd. The characters’ interaction felt completely fabricated and the three “actors” are actually life long friends. I can understand that non-actors wouldn’t act well, but you wouldn’t expect the chemistry between actual friends to be lacking. I usually leave a movie impressed with how well a story is told and how imagery was used to deliver messages without words. This weekend, I found myself laughing at parts that weren’t intended to be funny and wishing I would have had a chance to write the dialogue myself so that at least the interactions would sound like real people talking to each other.
Don’t get me started on the blatantly obvious foreshadowing of every scene leading up to the thwarted attack. Oh, you studied to be a battlefield paramedic? I wonder if you’ll use that skill in the next scene. Wait, you have been practicing jiu jitsu? I wonder how that will become important in the next five minutes.
One of the most Eastwood-esque parts of the movie came when he focused on what the three Americans did to become heroes in saving hundreds of lives. A Briton and French man were also integral in the true story of the event. They were an afterthought for Eastwood. His red, white and blue storytelling didn’t have room for non-American heroes. Who cares if it is true?
I was shocked that I didn’t like this movie.
This story is amazing. These men did an incredible thing. The potential was there to be one of the best movies this year. Instead, it was one of the worst movies I have ever made it through.
I think everyone will enjoy – or appreciate – the final 15 minutes of the film when the terrorist attack was thwarted by acts of bravery. If you enjoy parent-teacher conferences, watching other people’s vacation videos and bros being bros then you will enjoy the first hour and twenty minutes too.
The men deserved a better tribute. Eastwood used the real men and failed to tell the real story well.