March 24, 2018

Eastwood makes real heroes the stars in 'The 15:17 to Paris'

10 February 2018, 11:28 | Christie Tate

The 15.17 to Paris: Thank-you not very much Mr Eastwood

Anthony Sadler Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone

Based on a true story, The 15:17 to Paris follows the events that preceded a foiled terrorist attack on an August 21, 2015, train bound for the French capital.

A lawyer representing a man accused of carrying out a foiled terrorist attack has spoken out against a film by Clint Eastwood depicting the incident.

In addition to the onboard action, 15:17 to Paris will focus on the backstories of the three childhood friends. Along with Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler, a number of other real-life participants were also on hand, including Mark Moogalian, who had sustained a gunshot injury to the neck, and English businessman Chris Norman, who had helped restrain the attacker with a necktie and some cable.

The friends had spoken at length with the film-maker about their schooldays in Sacramento, California.

They're not the only people on the train that day who portrayed themselves in the movie.

"It doesn't have to be terrorists on a train, but it could be anything they face in their own life", he said. And what's unique about our story is that no one died - not even the terrorist. There are some pro actors along for the journey including Jenna Fisher, Judy Greer, Thomas Lennon and Tony Hale in those early flashback scenes, but they are upstaged by the first-timers. "He's taking a big risk by doing this and we're taking a big risk", says Skarlatos, who appeared on Season 21 of Dancing With the Stars. So, you might ask, 'what's my problem with the movie?' All that I have just described takes up just 20 minutes of this picture. "We were just put in a insane situation".

In many ways, Spencer and Anthony (who travel separately for part of the time while Alek visits a long-distance girlfriend in Berlin) are your typical Americans overseas, taking selfies in front of every major attraction or lovely view, eating and drinking their way across a continent.

The 15.17 to Paris: Thank-you not very much Mr Eastwood
Review: The 15:17 To Paris a consummate Clint Eastwood film

The film takes that same approach, ostensibly to honor the heroes' stories in their entirety, but what results on screen feels scattered and labored. In the process, Stone, who was an Air Force medic, was stabbed several times. "And afterwards we all huddled up and decided we needed to say something to him".

It's distracting enough to completely upend the tone of that crucial first act, and it's bad enough that the film can't really recover by the time that the three take center stage. "We've kind of caught the acting bug and he (Eastwood) gave us the confidence to do it". But at the end of the movie, you don't really know them all that well. In fact I had started out in a different neighbourhood whereas Alek and Spencer knew one another better because their mothers were next-door neighbours. Skills they had developed - including Skarlatos' and Stone's military experience, the former's proficiency with firearms, and the latter's training in jujitsu and as a medic - all came into play.

The gimmick to cast real heroes fail as they look reasonably good but fail to evoke any sentiments and we hear limes like "I am bored", "I feel like life is catapulting me towards something".

Eastwood's decision to cast the three heroes was a questionable one (originally, he was planning to hire actors) although the idea was a commendable one.

Sometimes they're completely whack, like Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor", which tore World War II to confetti so that world-changing real events didn't get in the way of a story about two boyhood friends turned Army pilots fighting over a red hot nurse. "We had such a history of friendship".

Eastwood has been drawn lately to extraordinary true stories, but usually with seasoned actors interpreting the roles, like Bradley Cooper in "American Sniper" and Tom Hanks in "Sully". Spencer, who keeps a closet full of realistic-looking toy guns and leads the others on shoot-'em-up adventures in the woods, has a vague sense that "life is just pushing us toward something, like some greater goal". He said be ourselves and he would do the rest. "I'm just extremely blessed to be in this position it just doesn't happen and the only way this could of happened is somebody of Mr. Eastwood's caliber", said Sadler.

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