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Movie Night – Film about heroes disappointing, uninspiring

By Bradley Griffith

“The 15:17 to Paris” is the true story of three Americans stopping a 2015 terrorist attack on a passenger train bound for Paris, France portrayed by the actual heroes who stopped the attack.  The movie is based on the non-fiction book by the three Americans and was produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. If that sounds like a setup for a great movie, like it did to me, you are in for a huge disappointment.

Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos are lifelong friends. They met in elementary school and were inseparable. When they were both moved to a private Christian high school they met Anthony Sadler. The three quickly bonded over their disciplinary issues and frequent visits to the principal’s office. They spent their days at school getting in trouble and their afternoons and weekends waging Airsoft battles.

As they grew older Spencer and Alek grew more and more interested in joining the military.  While working at a smoothie shop Spencer serves a Marine recruiter. The Marine tells Spencer that if he could do it all over again he would join the Air Force pararescue unit because all they do is save lives. Just like that, Spencer knows what he wants to do with his life.

At the same time Alek has joined the Army and is stationed in Afghanistan. What sounded like an exciting posting was anything but exciting. More than anything else, Alek was bored. Spencer hopes to ease this boredom by inviting Alek on a backpacking tour of Europe. Spencer also invites Anthony on their trip. The tour is amazing as they travel to Rome, Venice, Germany, and Amsterdam. On their way from Amsterdam to Paris they take a train ride that will change their lives. A lone gunman armed with an AK-47 and over 300 rounds of ammunition begins an attack on the train. Spencer, Alek, and Anthony can’t sit back and do nothing, they have to act.

I really wanted to like this movie. It’s a great true story about real American heroes. Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler deserve all of the medals and recognition that they have received. These three men and their story make me proud to be an American. But, the movie about their heroics is flat out bad.

It’s almost unheard of that the actual heroes play themselves in the movie about them.  And that didn’t help the movie at all.  They are great guys and heroes, but they are terrible actors.  In fact, every actor in the entire movie did a horrible job.  There were no good performances, not even by the professional actors.

The beginning of the movie with the boys growing up in school was almost unwatchable. The kids playing the main characters were such bad actors it’s astonishing they were cast in a major motion picture. If I had been watching this movie at home I would have turned the channel at this point.

Despite the fact that Clint Eastwood was the producer and director of the film, the entire production felt cheap, second-rate. Eastwood did a poor job of telling this great story. The trailers for the movie made it appear to be inspirational and I believe that Eastwood tried to make the movie inspirational. Somehow, despite the great story, the movie fell well short of inspiring.

The story was not long enough for an entire movie. Eastwood spent an inordinately large amount of time on the background of the three heroes. The actual train attack last only five to 10 minutes. That’s too bad since the attack itself was the only good part of the movie.

Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler are true American heroes and their bravery and heroism should be celebrated. It’s too bad the movie about them was so lame.

• • •

Grade: D+

Rated PG-13 for bloody images, violence, some suggestive material, drug references, and language.