“I don’t know, man. You ever just feel like life is pushing us towards something, like some greater purpose?” asks Spencer Stone (as himself) to his friend Anthony Sadler (as himself) as they debate whether to include a stop in Paris on their European vacation in the dramatic film, The 15:17 to Paris.
The film focuses on the three young men – Spencer, Anthony, and Alek Skarlatos (as himself) – whose friendship began when they were kids in Christian school together in Sacramento. Spencer and Alek quickly become friends with Anthony and soon the three are getting into all kinds of trouble together, becoming very familiar with the principal’s office. Their mischief and fun is similar to other boys (playing war in the woods, toilet-papering a neighbor’s house, having sleepovers), basically innocent but annoying activities. However, the young friends are forced to separate when Alek moves to Oregon to live with his father and Anthony changes schools.
What’s different from most friendships made as kids is that this threesome is determined to remain friends. The kids work at staying in touch and keeping their friendship intact, which they do. Later, as young adults, both Spencer and Alek enlist in the military looking for a greater purpose and a way to help people.
While stationed in Portugal, Spencer convinces Anthony via Skype to join he and Alek who are about to embark on a European vacation, calling it a once in a lifetime experience. Anthony agrees and joins Spencer and Alek for sightseeing and clubbing in Berlin and Amsterdam before finally deciding to keep Paris on their list of cities to visit.
The three young men board the 15:17 train to Paris and as they talk, munch on snacks, and enjoy the view from their windows, they’re unaware of the armed lone terrorist on board who in just minutes will attempt to attack the train and its passengers. It will be Spencer, Anthony, and Alek who will rise to take the terrorist on and risk their own lives to save everyone on board.
Based on actual events and directed by Clint Eastwood, The 15:17 to Paris is an inspiring and faithful account and recreation of the heroics of three young men going up against pure evil and saving lives. Eastwood’s camera work and editing along with casting the actual heroes who took down the terrorist gives the film a documentary feel, as it should. The scene on board the train with Spencer, Alek, and Anthony taking on the mad gunman is harrowing, suspenseful, and extremely realistic.
The first half of the film which focuses on the heroes when they were kids and how they become lifelong friends is a little uneven and feels more like an actual movie than the docu-drama the film later becomes. The young actors do a solid job of portraying Spencer, Anthony, and Alek, even looking a bit like them as grown-ups.
One problem the film does have is with all the time spent on the sightseeing, partying, and clubbing the guys do in Berlin and Amsterdam before actually heading to the train to go to Paris. It becomes tedious and boring and is sure to have the audience feeling as though they’re watching a home video of an actual vacation.
Still, it’s a true story of three young men and their brave acts in the face of death and saving lives that should be seen, appreciated, and honored.
Running Time: 94 minutes
Release Date: February 9, 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for bloody images, violence, some suggestive material, drug references and language