After the success of J Edgar, Clint Eastwood is back with yet another biographical. This time, a thriller. To the uninitiated, 15:17 is based on autobiography The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Soldiers by Jeffrey E. Stern, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos.
It is the story of the three soldiers and how they stop a terrorist on the train. 15:17 is the name of the train that departs from Amsterdam Central Station to Paris. Luckily enough, the authors reprise their roles in reel life as well!
The story runs in parallel lines for some time. Kids Spencer and Alek are brought up by single mothers and shift from school to school and end up in a Christian school. They befriend Anthony. Spencer and Alex always want to join the armed forces. Alex successfully joins the Army. Spencer wants to join the Para Military and is rejected because he fails the ‘depth perception’ test. He joins the ‘survival training’ and fails there too. On the parallel track, a terrorist has taken over a train and the passengers are trying their best to hide.
The problem with a biographical story is that one cannot make changes to the script irrespective of one’s creativity except if you want to play with the truth. If it were ‘inspired’ the case would well have been different. The movie moves on slowly (too slow) for the story to converge. The film basically deals with the question – what will you do to survive – stand and fight or will you run? When one goes to a theatre to watch a movie, one would expect to watch a movie and not a documentary. Where United 93 succeeded, 15:17 fails. The former succeeded because it laid emphasis on what happened rather than on the lives of the individuals involved. A lot of emphasis is given to the group of friends backpacking in Europe (a dream come true) than to the terrorist attack. In a 100-minute movie (thank God for the short time), the emphasis on the attack is all but for 5 minutes. This should be advertised as it is – a documentary. As the prayer Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy probably that is what this is meant to be. A prayer. Nothing more nothing less.