“The 15:17 To Paris” is a film that I was not aware of until I saw the poster at my local cinema. What initially grabbed my attention was that it is produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. I then found out later after reading about the film that it is actually based on a true story I clearly remembered being reported in the worldwide media back in 2015. When three American men, a British man, and others who were travelling from Germany to Paris confronted a terrorist as he attempted to take over a train.
What is a master-stroke and gives the film an added edge of realism is that the three leads and others are portrayed by the real people. Some I have seen have criticised them as actors. Not harshly. But my feeling is that they went through it. So why should they not play themselves if they want to and are up to it. Obviously they are not actors of the calibre of Tom Hanks, who starred in Clint Eastwood’s previous true story film “Sully“. Because they are the real people I really do feel that it adds far more to the depth, power and emotional aspect of the film. They actually do a really good job even though they are not professional actors. To be honest I genuinely would not have known they were not actors if I had not been told before I saw the film. It is a gamble Clint Eastwood took on them. And it paid off beautifully.
Clint Eastwood again effectively uses the flashback structure that he used in “Sully” to give the background to the three men’s lives and how they became friends. While intercutting at times with the events on the train. However, I have seen some criticism of the lead up to the events on train. Some describing it as like watching someone’s holiday film. But my feeling is that is how they in reality found themselves on the train. They were on a European holiday. It is pretty much portrayed as the events happened. In so doing it depicts realistically that they were three ordinary young men on holiday, and also gives far more depth to their friendship. My only criticism is that the British man Chris Norman a businessman living in France who was also involved with events on the train is not really given any back story. Although he and his wife do play themselves in the film. As does Professor Mark Moogalin. As well as them there were also others involved in confronting the terrorist. An off-duty French train driver and a French banker, but it is understandable they were not named in the film because they wished to remain anonymous.
I have found that Clint Eastwood as a film-maker has delivered far more intriguing films in recent years. Films like “The 15:17 To Paris“, “Million Dollar Baby“, “American Sniper“, and “Sully” feel almost pure independent in nature. It seems he is making the films the way he wants to make them rather than trying to appeal to mainstream multiplex audiences with Hollywood excess. “The 15:17 To Paris” is no exception. The film is not in any way a Hollywood style recreation of the events. I found that aspect to be really refreshing. As I did with “Sully“. It works to the advantage of both films because it gives them a feeling of realism many Hollywood true story films do not have.
I think that it is fantastic that Clint Eastwood is telling true stories in the low key way he does. I love that he does not seem to feel the need to ‘Hollywoodise’ true stories. To be honest some of the lukewarm receptions this and his previous film “Sully” got from some critics and audiences alike amazes me. Seeming to me to be because that neither of them have a Hollywood feel to them. Even though there are some elements of dramatic license in both films. As there pretty much always is in true story films. All credit to Clint Eastwood he decided to make “The 15:17 To Paris” in exactly the same low key style as “Sully“.
“The 15:17 To Paris” is without a doubt in my mind a brilliantly made and fitting tribute to the selfless bravery of ordinary people.