The 15:17 To Paris
Following Sully, Clint Eastwood delivers another ripped-from-the-headlines tale of valour. The twist here is he casts the real-life heroes behind the news story in his movie
In August 2015, an attempted machine gun terrorist attack on a trans-European train was thwarted by American tourists Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos, who, in a casting stroke worthy of the days of Audie Murphy, play themselves in Clint Eastwood’s screen portrayal of the lives of these men who stepped up to the plate to stop civilians being put in harm’s way.
As with Eastwood’s recent masterpieces American Sniper and Sully, this is a tale of real-life people whose dedication to valour and professionalism mark them as unassuming sheepdogs in a world of sheep and wolves. The opening chapters show them being bullied at school, bonding over playing war, and Spencer striving to become an Air Force Pararescue before medical conditions led his military career elsewhere. Eastwood’s brooding craftsmanship, as with the aforementioned other films, imbues a thoughtful, weighty quality to the backstory, and the idea of a gang of kids whose special bond would help them one day fight great evil is even reminiscent of the recent screen version of Stephen King’s It.
At the other end, there’s the extraordinary moment when they stop the machine gun attack and nurse one of the gunshot victims. But in the long midsection, there’s simply a backpacking trip across Europe, with the real heroes cast as themselves in stilted scenes of monosyllabic male bonding – reminiscent not of horror, thriller or war films, but more like holiday snaps or the staged connective tissue of reality shows like Made in Chelsea.
Eastwood is making a point here about the heroism of ordinary men, the grit behind seemingly banal bros, though it’s one of the oddest and lowest-key films he’s ever made, with long stretches making the “ordinary” point to a fault. If it doesn’t quite work as drama, it does play beautifully as a late auteur's meditative philosophical inquiry. For Scorsese, there was Silence; for Spielberg, The Post. For Clint, there is this, a spiritual meditation on how goodness and courage can sometimes look very plain indeed.
Released by Warner Bros