This is an amazing, real-life story told the most boring and unappealing manner. Director Clint Eastwood made several choices here that I just do not understand.
Of course, the biggest and most apparent choice made by the Oscar winning director was taking the real-life heroes from this major news event and have them play themselves. Childhood friends Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler star in this movie based on their heroism of one day on a train from Amsterdam to Paris. On that train, the trio, along with a few train customers, stopped a terrorist from hijacking the train and most likely saved the lives of everyone on the train.
This portrayal of this heroic event took all of ten minutes to show and play out. These ten minutes at the end of the film were amazing and suspenseful. Unfortunately, the previous 75 minutes of the film was filled with boredom, questionable narrative choices, truly awful writing and dialogue, and wooden delivery from the entire cast, not just the inexperienced men playing themselves.
The film starts by showing the three boys as children in school, which accomplishes nothing narratively, except, perhaps, to allow Eastwood to comment on his obvious dislike for the educational system. We are shown that these three boys are constantly getting into trouble, although most of the time it is the teachers and the administrators who are to blame because of their unfair accusations toward the boys. We are introduced to Anthony (young Anthony played by Paul-Mikél Williams) as a smart-mouthed troublemaker who appeal to the outcast boys Spencer(William Jennings) and Alek (Bryce Gheisar). They become friends, do stuff together, until Anthony decides he is leaving the all-boy Christian school to get a girlfriend. He does I guess. Then, there is more trouble and Alek is sent to live with his father out of town. This was apparently tough for Spencer,but we do not see it. As soon as Alek is taken away, we flash forward to older Spencer, who is back with Anthony (sans girlfriend, oh well).
At this point, Spencer has made a decision to join the Air Force and texted Alek, who does not return that text, implying that there is some distance between them, though Spencer was confused by it.
None of the story with the children actors is ever dealt with or returned to, nor does it factor in to anything that the threesome decide to do in the second half of the film. It is literally just a time filler.
We see Spencer fail in his attempt to earn the positions in the Air Force that he wanted, and to be asked to leave. Again, though, none of that carried any stake for the remainder of the film. It was just something that happened and is never mentioned again.
Just a few scenes after being tossed out from the Air Force, Spencer is convincing Anthony (who we know next to nothing about) to accompany him on a trip across Europe. The pair engage on the “selfie-tour” across Europe, eventually meeting up with Alek in Germany because he wanted to spend time with a girl he had met (though, I believe he made her up since we never see her at all and he acts later as if he is completely free of a relationship).
During this whole trip, you cannot imagine how wooden and awkward the scenes with these three are. There seemed to be very little acting skill on display, and even if they had great skills this dialogue was unlike that spoken by human beings.
There was only one scene in the entire movie, prior to the train sequence, that made me think it was important for later and that was when Spencer was learning some first aid in the Air Force. Practically every other scene in the film could be tossed aside.
The train sequence was thrilling and very compelling. I do not understand why the remainder of the film could not have been this interesting or could have built better to this ending scene.
I feel bad for Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler because they are true heroes who put their lives on the line to help save people without a second thought for their own safety. A film of this incident should have highlighted this more than this film did. I do not know what Clint Eastwood was thinking through most of this film, but it was surely a shame.