Actual heroes re-create bravery in '15:17 to Paris'

11 February, 2018, 03:52 | Author: Essie Rivera
  • The 15.17 to Paris: Thank-you not very much Mr Eastwood

Clint Eastwood is one of the best filmmakers of our time, but he should never be allowed to work with children again.

What we have here is the true story of how three American men - two soldiers, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, and their mate, Anthony Sadler - took down an armed terrorist on board a train headed for Paris, back in August 2015.

Eastwood admits that the prospect of casting nonactors didn't thrill the executives at Warner Bros.

They're each hopeful that this film won't be their last.

Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos from Sacramento, California, play themselves in the movie "The 15:17 to Paris", opening in U.S. theatres on Friday.

On Aug. 21, 2015, while on a backpacking trip through Europe, their Paris-bound train was attacked by a terrorist whose arsenal included an assault rifle and 270 rounds of ammunition.

"After surviving the terrorist attack, it kind of cured a lot of fears that I had", Skarlatos said.

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As they get older, Spencer and Alek's mutual sense of wanting to belong lands them both in the military.

The boys befriend Anthony (Paul-Mikel Williams) in high school and, after graduation, Skarlatos enlists with the Oregon Army National Guard and is posted to Afghanistan while Stone serves his country in the United States Air Force.

Stone said they feel blessed that Eastwood took the chance to cast them as themselves and the platform it has given them. There are a few nice touches during this portion of the movie, including a chance run-in with an American woman in Venice.

One wonders what another filmmaker, given the benefit of time and distance from their subjects, could have crafted with the story of these fearless young men and their actions on that day. They're good kids, but Spencer is not much into reading, Alex spends class time staring out the window and Anthony is a rascal who ends his frequent visits to the principal's office with parting lines like, "Say hello to that wife of yours for me". It may feel like fabricated dialogue, tailored for dramatic effect, but Stone really did express the sentiment aloud to his friend while they were perched on a roof in Italy. I particularly liked a moment in Germany, when Spencer and Anthony are at the location of the bunker where Hitler killed himself. It can't be easy to play yourself in a movie. Aside from the three heroes, several of the people who were on the train that day (including the man who was shot and some of the officers who arrived) are portrayed by the real people, which enhances the sequence's authenticity. But it sometimes comes together as a story of a lasting friendship and a makeshift team, whose shorthand results in quick thinking and unwavering bravery.

The film was released on Friday in theaters nationwide. Certain characters bring up their faith so infrequently that when they do, it feels awkwardly wedged in and somewhat confusing. For whatever reason, Eastwood has made a decision to fill out the cast with comedic actors, nearly distractingly so at times. In addition to Greer, Fischer and Lennon, "Veep" star Tony Hale makes an appearance, as does Jaleel White (yes, Steve Urkel himself). "Doing it with Clint Eastwood was the coolest experience". Not all white men are frightful. In footage from the ceremony, Hollande says, "It is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy", and the buddies standing beside him can't keep back their smiles.

Superficially speaking, there might not be much in common between Akshay Kumar and Clint Eastwood, besides of course that both have films that released in India on the same Friday - but the slightest bit of digging will uncover similarities that can not be overlooked. (Haing S. Ngor essentially played himself in The Killing Fields, and athletes have been appearing in their own biopics at least since The Jackie Robinson Story in 1950.) But it's clear watching the finished product that the problem doesn't lie in hard casting - The 15:17 to Paris's entire raison d'être seems pretty questionable. We've always done it and we're presumably always going to do it, even if the manners have changed. It's brutal and unsentimental, the most logical application of Eastwood's meat-and-potatoes approach to directing that the film ever sees.

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