Not that I had any reason to expect the 15:17 to Paris would be good (reviews were pretty downbeat), but I was honestly shocked at just how bad a movie it is -- almost a non-movie, really. The central event occupies only about six minutes of screen-time, and the 75 or so minutes leading up to it are often-meandering filler.
Bad filler, at that: the opening sequence from the guys' schoolboy days is truly awful, seeming to seriously suggest a bunch of war-lovin' guys would be the objects of constant bullying. (In my experience, such guys are far more commonly the bulliers.) There's also the tired "teachers want to medicate our boys; they don't understand they're just boisterous" hokum that right-wingers like to promote. Much as I like much of Eastwood's work, there are times when I'm forcibly reminded he's the guy who talked inanely to a chair at the Republican convention.
And then there's an inexplicably lengthy European travelogue section -- the guys decide to go on a jaunt to multiple countries on the continent, and we just follow them around as they do nothing of interest, and nothing that builds to anything except, at long last -- after about half an hour -- the fateful train trip.
And even there the film fails for me, by neglecting to deal with the one truly tantalizing element in the narrative. (SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM, OR DON'T REMEMBER IT FROM WHEN IT OCCURRED.) One of our three main guys sees the armed terrorist advancing with his ammunition-rich weapon and makes a run at him. This would almost surely have led to his death -- the guy had a clear shot at him -- but, by some miracle, the weapon jammed, enabling our hero to get to him and ultimately disarm him. Eastwood shows this, for sure, but he doesn't delve into it at all. Surely the guy must have had some feeling about this -- that he was blessed, or simply uncannily lucky. But the film is content to just turn it into "if there's a crisis, you have to do something" moral lesson -- despite the fact that 99 out of 100 people wouldn't have had that dumb luck, and the act would have been suicidal. It typifies the film's dramatic and moral emptiness that this chance at exploring nuance is passed over for cheap heroics.
Of course, this isn't to suggest what the guy did wasn't brave. I can admire his raw courage, and be happy it led to such a positive outcome. I'm sure Eastwood felt this, too, and it's why he hired the three guy to play themselves. Unhappily, that choice has disastrous impact on the film: the presence of non-actors in the primary roles makes the film even worse than it would be based on its poor screenplay.
I don't know when Eastwood last made a film this bad. A grievous disappointment.