Susan Granger’s review of “The 15:17 to Paris” (Warner Bros.)
On Thalys passenger train 9364 bound for Paris on August 21, 2015, three brave Americans intercepted a terrorist who was determined to kill as many people as possible.
Their spontaneous heroism inspired Clint Eastwood not only to film their story but also to cast Spencer Stone, Alex Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler as themselves.
Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and Oregon National Guardsman Alex Skarlatos were vacationing in Europe with their childhood friend Anthony Sadler, who was studying for a kinesiology degree from Cal State, when a heavily armed gunman opened fire on their high-speed train.
With the help of French businessman Mark Moogalian, they subdued and disarmed 22 year-old Ayoub El Khazzani (Ray Corasini), the Lebanese assailant. The Frenchman and three Americans subsequently received the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award, from President Francois Holllande at the Elysee Palace.
Following “Sully” about pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger and “American Sniper” about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, this marks the third film in a row in which Clint Eastwood has depicted real-life events, honoring ordinary people who have greatness thrust upon them.
Screenwriter Dorothy Blyskal had already adapted their inspirational story, when Eastwood asked the young men to play themselves, a concept that’s been done before. Jackie Robinson played the lead in “The Jackie Robinson Story” (1950) and World War II veteran Audie Murphy starred in “To Hell and Back” (1955).
Although they’d never taken acting lessons, all three immediately agreed, co-starring with experienced pros like Jenna Fischer and Judy Greer. Now, they’re eagerly pursing further acting jobs.
Unfortunately, there’s little to the script beyond basic exposition – nothing except adolescent flashbacks that would reveal the backstory or motivation of each of the participants. Prior to the terrorism, they’d traveled to Rome, Venice and Berlin, roaming bars and discos, before deciding to go to Amsterdam, instead of Spain.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The 15:17 to Paris” is a re-enacted 5, an authentic historical event that was ripped from the headlines.