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The 15:17 to Paris (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 94 minutes


When three friends, Anthony Sadler, former Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and former U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone, met in Europe and boarded the titular train (Thalys train #9364 bound for Paris), Stone asked the other two, “Do you ever feel like life is just pushing us toward something, some greater purpose?”

Little did they know that the answer was awaiting them just around the corner. This is the story of the three of them confronting a terrorist on the train and disarming him without any fatalities. It’s based on their book of the incident.

Director Clint Eastwood became aware of the story when he presented them with the Hero Award at the Spike Guy’s Choice Awards in 2016.  He spoke with them afterwards and they told him they were writing a book about the experience. He said he’d like to take a look at it, so they sent him the galleys when they were finished. He loved the story and told them he’d like to make a movie about it.

Being Eastwood, he also decided that the three should play themselves. This is a pretty big jump, but when you see the movie they all give such good performances there’s no way to know that they aren’t professional actors.

This raises the question as to whether or not this is really a compelling enough story to be the subject of a major studio (Warner Bros.) feature film. The film is mostly a long setup, getting to know who they are before their heroics occur.

I found to be slow as it builds up to the climax, but I guess that is necessary to show how these three are just ordinary American men who, when heroic acts were required, stepped up to the plate without pause or concern for their own safety. While it took exceptional courage for Stone to confront a heavily armed man on the train, the denouement is over very quickly. It saved a massacre as the terrorist was armed with enough bullets and weapons to kill hundreds of people.

I applaud Eastwood for having the guts to show the bad guy as an Islamic terrorist, but Hollywood didn’t like it, originally giving the film an R rating, obviously intending to lessen its box office ability to attract the young family audience to which it is directed.

Clint appealed even though only about 12 ratings are appealed out of the approximately 900 that are rated each year. The Board said that the R rating was justified because of the short scenes of violence when Stone takes down the terrorist. But to give you a feeling for the blatant bias here, one of Hollywood’s most ballyhooed film, Wonder Woman (which I loathed) is filled with violence and death but got a PG-13 rating from the Board. Hollywood just can’t stand Eastwood and his films that are honest and this one, especially, that paints an Islamic terrorist as a bad buy.

Since the rating was so prejudiced and without merit, Clint won his appeal and the movie received the PG-13 rating to which it was entitled.