Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
Courage, bravery, self-sacrifice to save others
terrorism and terrorists
|Featuring:||Spencer Stone … Airman Spencer Stone
Cole Eichenberger … Young Spencer Stone
Anthony Sadler … Anthony Sadler
Paul-Mikél Williams … Young Anthony Sadler
Alek Skarlatos … Specialist Alek Skarlatos
Bryce Gheisar … Young Alek Skarlatos
Judy Greer … Joyce Eskel
Jenna Fischer … Heidi Skarlatos
Thomas Lennon … School Principal
P.J. Byrne … Mr. Henry - Hallway Monitor
Lillian Solange Beaudoin … Carolyn
Jaleel White … Garrett Walden
Tony Hale … Gym Teacher
Sinqua Walls …
Ray Corasani … Ayoub El-Khazzani
See all »
David M. Bernstein
See all »
Warner Bros. Pictures
“A true story of the real heroes”
You are on a train in Europe when suddenly a terrorist bursts out of the bathroom, fully armed and ready to kill as many passengers as possible, now what do you do? This is the question that flashes through the minds of three passengers, young men who have been friends most of their lives. How they respond during this crisis will affect the fate of everyone on board that terrifying day.
But the film and their friendship begins years earlier when young Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, best friends since elementary school, meet and befriend another ‘problem’ student named Anthony Sadler. The three quickly become inseparable, playing ‘war’ games with BB-guns after school, and, though their lives will diverge, these lifelong friends will remain in close contact with each other.
Spencer meets a Marine recruiter and decides to join Air Force Pararescue, but learns he fails to qualify. Although that won’t be the first time he is disappointed in his military career, he is true to his commitment and presses on, determined to serve America and to save lives. Alek has joined the National Guard and finds himself on an assignment in war-torn Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Anthony is living the civilian life when Spencer convinces him to meet up in Europe so the three can spend some time back-packing their way across the nations. The last leg of their journey finds them on the same train that a terrorist has targeted for the slaughter of unsuspecting civilians.
“The 15:17 to Paris” focuses most of its screen time on the young men’s experiences in the days leading up to the event, rather than the event itself. This allows the audience to really get to know these friends who are unknowingly destined for a train ride that a terrorist has targeted. This will serve to make the inevitable confrontation that much more jarring and impactful. Some content will be of concern.
Violence: Moderate to heavy. The strongest violence occurs during the terrorist attack when both knives and guns are used. There is intense fighting, including strangulation, kicking and punching, and a man is shot and seen bleeding profusely. A knife is used on someone’s neck, and a finger is virtually cut off during the melee. The peril during the attack is real, and many passengers are shown running or hiding to avoid getting killed. Earlier, during middle school, some bullying and mocking of the boys occurs. Although the graphic violence is confined to scenes from the attack, it remains too intense for younger children.
Language: Moderately heavy. The Lord’s name is taken in vain seven times—“J*s*s Chr***” (1), “J*s*s” (2), “jeeze” (2), G**-d**n (2), “oh my G**” (3), “Oh G*d,” “h*ll” (6), and “d*mn” (1). On the plus side, an old man is shown saying, “God bless you,” and both Spencer and his mother speak of God reverentially, and Spencer is shown in prayer. The following foul and crude language is heard: frigg**” (1), “sh**” (14), “a**” (6), “a**h***” (1), and “scr**” (1).
Sex/Nudity: Mild to moderate. Most of the inappropriate dress is by young women at a club where cleavage and derriere accenting short shorts are the order of the day. Men are seen shirtless both before and after the attack. Many couples are shown dancing closely and some are kissing in the club. A girl is shown using a stripper pole, but she does not appear to be a stripper. Spencer later uses the pole as well, but only for comedic effect.
Alcohol is seen being served in a night club, and Spencer, Alek and Anthony are seen frequently having beers. One night they over indulge and are shown disheveled and passed out until noon the next day. There are also three very brief comments referring to drugs, but not condoning them.
Faith—An Elementary school teacher tells Spencer’s mom (Judy Greer) that it makes sense that by Spencer growing up in a single-parent household he would [naturally] have his type of trouble and even recommends medicating him. His mom counters by saying, “My God is bigger than your statistics!” Her faith, as expressed in both her word and her actions, is a powerful influence on her young son, and he is mindful of that lesson throughout his life.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. —Proverbs 22:6
Prayer—Young spencer kneels after a very troubling day and says the prayer made famous by Saint Francis that begins, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love…” As the main character, we see him turn to God over and over, and the results in his life remind us of the power of prayer.
Divine protection—Just as many families pray for their loved ones when they enter the armed forces, we know that Spencer is likewise under God’s protecting hand, not only during one crucial moment, but throughout a life that has been leading to this moment. No wonder that one of the most popular prayers said today on behalf of our soldiers remains one of David’s psalms.
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
[But] it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes,
And see the recompense of the wicked.
For you have made the Lord, my refuge, [Even] the Most High, your dwelling place.
No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
For He will give His angels charge concerning you… —Psalm 91:5-11 (also see: What is this Psalm referring to exactly?)
Director Clint Eastwood emphasizes the heroes of this drama and gives no backstory at all for the terrorist, which, in itself, is a refreshing change from so many films today. The result is that when they finally engage the Islamic terrorist one can genuinely be concerned for our heroes, and in this respect he succeeds. Eastwood’s use of the actual heroes themselves instead of actors may have limited the range that he could coax from them, but their performances are surprisingly natural. Not nearly as compelling as his earlier film (“American Sniper” 2014) their lengthy European tour, which comes across almost as if it were a home movie, is over-long and plays out at such a leisurely pace that it becomes easy to forget that this is all leading somewhere, and therein is its weakest point. However, if you can bear through the slow build up, it serves to give perspective to the brief but thrilling climax. An almost forgettable musical score is the film’s other weakness, but it only marginally detracts from the film.
“The 15:17 to Paris” is a decent movie about friendship, perseverance and ultimately rising to the occasion in the most terrible of circumstances. Tainted by some content unsuitable for younger audiences, it is nonetheless a positive film about real American heroes and a nod to the God-fearing country that creates them.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.