Europe be saved from extremists by a young group of Americans on vacation, going to France? Well, in one case, that is exactly what happened. In the summer of 2015, there were three friends who were backpacking across the continent, and they managed to be in the right place at the right time. It also helped that they did the right thing, that is – stop a major attack from happening on a high-speed train traveling to Paris. Everyone could have been killed, and they helped to stop the worst-case scenario. This movie is a depiction of that event, and the lives of the three young American men. They also happen to play themselves, not as a gimmick, but to keep the story as true as possible.
“The 15:17 to Paris” gets into the events of the train attack, but first it goes back to the high school days of the three guys who develop a bond that will last for many years. When they are finally out of school, each will decide what they will do with their lives. Spencer Stone (played by Spencer Stone) joins up with the Air Force and learns some life skills. Alek Skarlatos (played by Alek Skarlatos) gets into the National Guard and spends a tour in Afganistan. Anthony Sadler (played by Anthony Sadler) goes to college to become smarter and to learn about the world. They all decide that a trip to Europe would do them all a world of good. Spencer and Anthony get to Italy and then go to Venice. At that same time, Alek meets up with an exchange student in Germany.
The early years of the three guys get illuminated in flashbacks about how they all met. Young Spencer and his mom (Judy Greer) and neighbors to young Alec and his mom (Jenna Fischer) The two boys meet with young Anthony at school, and they all get along quite well. They spend time playing and sometimes get into trouble. But when they all grow up, that is when the real adventure starts. They all meet up in the Europe trip in Germany, and then spend some time in Amsterdam. But they are convinced by many people to make a final trip to Paris, just because it is a beautiful place. And they are in luck, because they can take the 15:17 to Paris…
However, on this particular train, there is also a passenger with very bad intent. Ayoub El-Khazzani (Ray Corasani) has brought aboard a few extra items, such as an AK-47, a hand gun, a knife, and large supply of ammo. This guy decides to take out as many people as he can in the train compartment. But little does he know that Spencer, Alek and Anthony are also aboard. It just so happens that they have a particular set of skills that just might save the day. They all face-off against El-Khazzani to give him a very bad, very no-good day. Of course, there are a couple of other people involved with taking down the terrorist and saving the day, but the biggest flag waves for the Americans.
Clint Eastwood has taken a big chance and made a bold gamble. With casting the actual guys that where there on that day, he gives a large responsibility to some people who are not professional actors. In fact, many of the actual passengers on that train are given an opportunity to recreate a moment of terror and the relief of getting control of the situation. The three come through with excellent results; after all they are playing themselves. They might have a handful of times that the acting is a tad bit rough and unrefined. But it does shine through to give a very unique view from the eyes of those who were deeply involved.
Eastwood takes his steady and trained hand to guide the (non) actors to perform the events of their lives again, but this time for our benefit. The movie is focused on the one main event, but it goes into details about how all three of these guys wound up there on that train. There are times where the movie starts to drag a bit, as you learn a little more about what these guys want out of life. But with a brisk run time, there is no time to get bored. That is because each scene is designed to being you to the main event.
This movie has the ‘true story’ aspect down to a tee. That is mostly because the actual participants are the actors. That says a lot about how important Eastwood thinks this movie will be. His vision keeps “The 15:17 to Paris” on track…