Originally published Monday, February 19, 2018 at 10:12a.m.

The 15:17 to Paris is a film based on real facts that occurred in 2015 aboard a passenger train on its way to Paris. A terrorist had boarded the train, with the intent of mass murder of hundreds of passengers. Three Americans, touring Europe together, with the help of a French businessman, were able to subdue the would-be killer and save many lives.

The three Americans were lifelong friends from California. Most of The 15:17 to Paris is about their lives, their relationship, their societal problems as teens and as adults who manage to achieve fulfillment.

When they were in school as teens, they were constantly in trouble because they were not always (in fact, rarely) attentive and often disrespectful. Two of the boys had single mothers, who resented the recommendations of the school’s principal and grade advisor that they needed something to normalize their attitudes.

The three of them had an attraction to matters that dealt with war. They dreamed of being heroes who saved lives in remote parts of the world. Spencer was big and portly. Alek was shorter and slightly built. Anthony was smaller and mostly uncaring about rules.

The film shows a lot about their youth, with an occasional flash-forward clip to the train event. It seems like director Clint Eastwood wanted to remind us that the action scenes will be shown eventually. That helps relieve the low-key progress of the film.

The boys’ favorite pastime is playing war, with toy pistols and rifles. They are also awed by real firearms. When they mature, Spencer and Alek join the military; the Marines for Spencer and the Air Force for Alek. Anthony becomes a teacher. Spencer and Alek have grown into big, muscular, strong men.

They get together in Europe where Spencer and Alek are stationed and they get Anthony to join them during summer recess. The movie follows them around some of the most well-known tourist spots, like Rome, Venice, Berlin, Amsterdam, etc. We are ‘treated’ to the beautiful views of the cities and the landscapes of those places.

They decide to go to Paris and they arrange for passage on the train. When the train is underway, the terrorist comes out of the rest room, with rifles, guns, knives and mountains of ammunition. The passengers, screaming and shaking try to flee. Our guys smother him with their fists and some of the hardware he had.

A Frenchman joins them in the heroic act. They succeed in completely subduing and disarming him. One passenger was shot and is bleeding badly. Spencer, who was knifed in the neck by the terrorist, was able to use some of his first-aid training to save the passenger’s life. In the final scene of The 15:17 to Paris, the President of France bestows medals on the four heroes.

The part of The 15:17 to Paris that shows the action on the train is exciting and captivating for us. Most of the film is about the lives, the interests, the travels, the travails and their friendship.

Those parts are punctuated by the flash-forward scenes to keep our interest. An interesting aspect of this film is that the three heroes are played on screen by the actual men. And their performances are not at all bad.

The 15:17 to Paris is at the Harkins Sedona 6 Theater.

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