Clint Eastwood tells the real story Of the 15:17 to Paris
In my last post I mentioned about this Clint Eastwood directed and produced movie called 15:17 to Paris, and that I was slated for a 9th February release here in India. So, it took me to the theater again this weekend yesterday for a first hand look at what the movie was all about. I already told you that The movie drew me not just only because it was based on true events, but also because it was directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, who has already shown and given full proof of his capabilities in various memorable movies before, particularly American Sniper, Sully and various other award winning ones. And that both these previous movies were based on true incidents, it was not surprising that Eastwood will pick up another true life incident and dramatize it. Let’s get some insights into this movie as per my take on it.
We just did what we had to do. You either run away or fight. We chose to fight and got lucky and didn’t die….
Clint Eastwood's minimalist docudrama
Yes, after watching this one with great curiosity and interest, I will have to say without doubt that if you go to this movie with expectations of seeing a gripping tense drama enacted by professional and well known actors and actresses, then you will be disappointed. But what you will gain is to see the ability of a director of the stature of Clint to take risks of casting unknown real life characters in his movies and create something very usually and normally relative and unique.
15:17 to Paris is a high speed train, Thalys in France, which was under attack by a heavily armed Moroccan national called Ayoub El Khazzani, who wanted to create maximum casualties inside the high speed train on route from Amsterdam to Paris by open firing on the passengers with his more than 300 rounds of ammunition from the automatic weapon he was carrying. Much to the horrifying experience of the passengers, as this man immerged from the coach washroom brandishing his weapon while the train was travelling at real high speeds through the French countryside, he was challenged by some of the passengers tried to over power him, but he managed to shoot a passenger in the back, and he was getting ready to shoot further passengers, he was heavily challenged in pure rugby style by US Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone from Sacramento, California. Spencer was travelling in the train to Paris from Amsterdam along with two of his friends, Alek Skarlatos of Roseburg, Oregon, a National Guard serviceman, just returned from active duty in Afghanistan, and their childhood friend Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University. Spencer, Alek and Anthony on that fatal day, took personal risks, didn’t think of their own life, over powered the terrorist, took care of the heavily injured passenger, controlled the situation, took care of the the other terrified passengers in that coach, and saved the lives of countless souls on that 15:17 to Paris.
This happened on a 21st August, 2015, just before 6-00 pm. There were more than 550 passengers on board that train.
The major part of the first half of the movie deals with the childhood of the three protagonists, Spencer, Alek and Anthony. Being brought up in strict Christian schools and family of single parents, the boys were occasionally rebellious and subjected to repeated reprimands at the Principals office. Life went on, as the boys grew up, and their friendship grew too. As Spencer always used to have these dreams and premonitions that their lives were destined for something bigger, we felt that divine intervention was very much present when Spencer was running down the aisle of that train coach towards the terrorist as he was readying his Kalashnikov to fire at Spencer, but the gun jammed, and Spencer flew on to pin him to the ground, saving his life as well everyone else’s life on board.
Clint Eastwood craftily took us through the various phases of the childhood of these three buddies, with specific emphasis on Spencer Stone, as he grew up with an inner mission to do for the society and people in general and which took him to join the National Guards. Clint’s minimalist approach to the handling of the movie gives a very natural everyday life feeling to the scenes with no fuss, no frills acting.
As you can see in the picture above, you will get amazed by the uniqueness of the movie. Yes, the real life heroes played in this movie. That’s where the Directorship of Clint Eastwood comes into the picture. He could have easily taken big names from Hollywood for the three friends and many others in the movie. But he decided to cast the real life heroes of the incident, knowing very well that they are not actors, they are not in any way trained for it, and in such a scenario they were asked to re enact their own act of bravery on the train, including their early teen days in a big movie, is something that we have to sit up and notice.
Their act of valor, and then their re enacting the same scenes in a movie seems nothing less than a fairy tale, through their daily mundane existence, yet doing something which the world will remember and respect and talk about, more so after Clint Eastwood decided to bring their amazing story forward.
Thalys is a high speed train of France that travels across various destinations in Europe. Many shots in the movie have been naturally shot on board Thalys, on route from Amsterdam to Paris Nord, and the visuals of this amazing train travelling smoothly through breakneck speed through landscapes are a pretty sight and exciting. The boys got on this train from Amsterdam after spending a wild night in a night club, drunk and hung over, for their onward destination, Paris. Previously Spencer and Anthony were on a tour to Rome, Venice and finally to Germany to meet up with Alek who was visiting his German girlfriend in Berlin, finally reaching Amsterdam after that before their fatal journey for Paris.
Clint Eastwood surprises With an emotional finale
As the train comes to an emergency unscheduled halt at a nearby station before Paris, with our heroes in control of the situation inside the train, the platform already had French special forces, police, medical personnel and counter terrorist personnel waiting to storm the train. As the gunman was taken out by the special forces, and the wounded passenger was taken to nearby medical facility, the authorities were amazed at the bravery shown by these three American youths in dealing with such a fatal and life threatening incident with cool, calm and responsible, fearless zeal and agility.
As the incident happened on French soil, it was but natural that the French government decided to honor the brave heroes and another passenger, Britisher Chris Norman[who helped Spencer and Alek to neutralize the assailant].
As the then French President Francois Hollande conferred the prestigious Legion of Honour, the highest civilian award on these heroes, gave an emotional gratitude filled and congratulatory speech thanking these brave hearts for what they did, as it saved the lives of God knows how many lives on board that fatal train.
Clint used original footage from the award ceremony and carefully mixed up with the other actors, mainly the family members of the three heroes, and the smooth handling of this amazing 5-10 minutes in the last scenes definitely put Eastwood in a different league.
I left the movie theater with the experience of watching real life incidents, played by real life heroes, masterfully crafted by an iconic Hollywood Actor Director Clint Eastwood. I will definitely recommend this one to be watched with no expectations of a big blockbuster, but with an informative inquisitiveness into the incidents of the 15:17 to Paris 🙂