Remember back in 2015 when that terrorist nutter tried to cause chaos on a high speed train to Paris, but an Englishman a Frenchman and some Americans took him out? Well, Clint Eastwood has made a film about the attack, taking the interesting angle of looking at how the three Americans grew up, in order to cast some light on why they took that courageous decision to have a go. Eastwood is even more experimental - shockingly so - in that he casts the three real life men - Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone - to play themselves. The result is a film that is disarmingly simple, direct, authentic and surprisingly affecting.
As the film opens we see the three men as kids, getting into scrapes at school, being split up as one leaves for school in another town. You get the feeling that they're just normal boys, albeit boys brought up with strong mothers and for one of them at least strong faith and a strong sense of (military) service. There's a kind of simplicity to their basic human decency and - at the same time - their almost moronic banality. They sound like most twenty something friends, when they're ordering beers and food in a Dutch bar with a raging hangover. To be sure they can't act - but that's kind of the point. That extraordinary things can happen to ordinary people. But not all ordinary people react in the way these boys did. Military training helps. Knowing your way around a gun probably does help, as much I hate to say it. And having strong moral values that compel you to insert yourself into the situation probably helps.
To be sure, Eastwood's brand of folksy patriotism and family values will grate on some viewers. I found myself having to detach myself for the allegory that could be made to a kind of interventionist military pro-gun policy. But it's hard to be cynical when faced with such common decency and bravery. And as much as I was irritated by the lack of focus given to the French and British men who also fought back, I guess that's just the nature of the beast. And after all, Eastwood does give the final most emotional speech to a real life Francois Hollande. And I honestly did shed a tear when he spoke about humanity countering terror.
THE 15:17 TO PARIS is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 94 minutes. It is available to rent and own.
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