Clint Eastwood’s Movie ‘The 15:17 To Paris’ Casts Real-Life Heroes

'The 15:17 To Paris' is Clint Eastwood's project, and captures the imagination. He cast three American heroes and retold the story of a terrorist attack that took place on a train bound for Paris.

In this Sept. 11, 2015 file photo, Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, left, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, center, and Anthony Sadler attend a parade held in their honor in Sacramento, Calif.
Carl Costas / AP Images

'The 15:17 To Paris' is Clint Eastwood's project, and captures the imagination. He cast three American heroes and retold the story of a terrorist attack that took place on a train bound for Paris.

Lots of stories get on to the big screen, but it’s not typical for ordinary people to be cast in it. The film The 15:17 To Paris tells a tale about how three ordinary Americans intervened in a mass shooting inside a train bound from Amsterdam to Paris as the final destination.

The film was released on February 9 and is based on real events that occurred almost three years ago to the day. Veteran film director Eastwood is showing no signs of aging nor slowing down. His movie releases include American Sniper, Sully, and the latest The 15:17 To Paris.

What makes this film unique and different is these real-life American passengers lived through a life-threatening situation. However, being chosen for the role is surprising. According to National Public Radio, Eastwood’s approach was simple. He wanted to portray how common people can make a difference.

“‘The 15:17 To Paris’ he continues the theme of ordinary people who become heroes. The title comes from the train on which three Americans, two of them soldiers, stopped a 2015 terrorist attack. In the film, all three play themselves…”

David Edelstein, a critic of the film, offered insights and critique. He said not only does this story highlight American heroism, but people do recognize these American heroes who got another chance at life.

“Clint Eastwood’s ‘The 15:17 To Paris’ celebrates old-fashioned American heroism, and I like it. The heroes and their story are well-known. On August 21, 2015, three friends – Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler – were traveling by high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris when a Moroccan gunman with known terrorist sympathies emerged from a lavatory armed with multiple weapons.”

The mass shooting could have been worse that day. The above NPR report mentioned that the shooter was not adequately trained to use the weapons he brought onboard. Second, the combined efforts of French passengers and these American heroes changed the outcome from becoming a potential massacre.

Upon examining further, there is something unique about these three American heroes. As stated by The Guardian, two out of the three American citizens involved in these heroic efforts were soldiers.

In spite of this heroic tale, there has been opposition to the film’s release. The suspect in custody, Ayoub El-Khazzani, is facing trial. The attorney, Mauger-Poliak representing the attacker said the film’s release should be halted. She emphasized because of the way the movie portrays how the events unfolded it could have a prejudicial effect.

“Mauger-Poliak said the film presents a ‘fictionalized’ and ‘one-sided’ portrayal of the incident to the public that could prejudice the case of El-Khazzani, who is Moroccan.”

Poliak added that she is aware that her client has a past, but that justice should proceed without any outside influence.

These Americans’ stories were brought to the forefront of American pride on that day. Conforming to NPR, Spencer Stone is an Air Force serviceman, Alek Skarlatos a National Guardsman, and Anthony Sadler is a Sacramento State University student.