“What an odd film” is an even odder exclamation to follow a film by Clint Eastwood, but The 15:17 to Paris is just that: an odd film by Clint Eastwood. Why Eastwood would want to make this film certainly makes sense. The heroic actions of three childhood friends—Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Dasher—to stop a terrorist on a train headed to Paris combines patriotism with enough faith and slight jingoism to pair nicely with Eastwood’s wildly popular American Sniper.
Where the movie gets strange is in its casting; after originally announcing Kyle Gallner, Jeremie Harris and Alexander Ludwig as his stars, Eastwood decided to replace those three professionals with the real Stone, Skarlatos and Dasher. None of this heroic trio will be mistaken for professional actors, but this bit of stunt casting mostly succeeds in its goal to heighten the realism. (It also makes Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer stand out like sore thumbs as the mothers of Spencer and Alek.)
Sort-of-lead Spencer loosens up so much by the end of the three men’s European vacation he makes his pals’ stiffness that much more perceptible. Don’t expect another United 93; Eastwood spends more time on the heroes’ childhood friendship and trip across Europe than he does the train attack. It is almost as if the point of his film is not the heroics, but the friendship that empowered them.