A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The 15:17 to Paris is a fact-based drama directed by Clint Eastwood about three Americans who stopped a terrorist attack aboard the titular train in 2015. The intense, bloody terrorist attack is shown; viewers will see a shooting, fighting, bashing with a rifle butt, choking, and knife slashes. Kids also play "war" with very realistic-looking toy guns. Language includes several uses of "s--t," plus "a--hole," "goddamn," and more, including a brief racial reference. A scene in a nightclub features scantily clad women, kissing, and women dancing on a stripper pole. There's also a little innuendo. Characters drink beer and wine socially, sometimes resulting in hangovers. A character smokes a cigarette. The three main characters are played by the actual men involved in the incident; their acting is often amateurish, and there are long awkward/unnecessary stretches, but when the movie gets going, it works.
What's the story?
In THE 15:17 TO PARIS, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, and Anthony Sadler (all playing themselves) have been best friends since they started making trouble together in middle school in Sacramento, California. Alek and Spencer, serving in the military in Europe, convince Anthony to join them for a summer backpacking trip. They visit Germany and Italy and then detour for a wild night in Amsterdam. On the train to Paris the next day, a terrorist emerges from the bathroom with a rifle and some 300 rounds of ammunition. He manages to shoot a man before the three friends jump into action, taking out the terrorist and saving the life of the wounded man.
Is it any good?
Directed by Clint Eastwood, this drama has a first half that's slow and awkward, mainly due to the stars' amateurish acting; but once it finally gets going, Eastwood's skilled touch reveals itself. The 15:17 to Paris isn't the first movie to cast non-actors in key roles (see Act of Valor), and it faces most of the same problems as Skarlatos, Stone, and Sadler struggle through memorized dialogue. But you could almost argue that this is like a work of Italian neorealism; indeed, Eastwood once worked with a pioneer of that movement, Vittorio De Sica, on a 1967 movie called The Witches.
It's true that the long backstory stuff -- especially the bits about the central trio as middle school kids -- is wince-inducing and possibly unnecessary. But if you have patience until the European trip starts, things start getting exciting. And the final stretch featuring the attack and the heroic act is worth the trouble. Eastwood shows it all with his usual classical simplicity. Usually in biopics (such as Eastwood's own previous film, the terrific Sully), an epilogue shows footage of the real-life person or persons, and we're left to compare it to the performance of the actors we've just seen. In The 15:17 to Paris, it's the same faces; this may have been a re-creation, but there was no pretending.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The 15:17 to Paris' violence. Is it exciting or shocking? Does it make any difference that we know how the situation is going to turn out? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
How do you feel about the fact that the real-life heroes play themselves in the movie? Do you think their lack of acting training helps or hinders the movie?
Are the characters inspiring? Are they role models? Why or why not?
How did you feel about the scenes of children playing "war" using realistic guns?
- In theaters: February 9, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: May 22, 2018
- Cast: Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer
- Director: Clint Eastwood
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: bloody images, violence, some suggestive material, drug references and language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.