by Lash

Clint Eastwood is no novice at directing biopics. Having directed 36th films, there was a handful based on real events or characters, like Invictus, J. Edgar, American Sniper and Sully, to name a few. In his latest effort, The 15:17 To Paris, he not only drew the material from real life, he also cast the heroes involved in the event in the movie, his shortest ever, spanning 94 minutes.

The 15:17 To Paris

Based on the book "The 15:17 To Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Soldiers", the movie touches on a terrorist attack on a Thalys train in 2015, thwarted by three Americans, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos.

So what exactly happened on that Paris- bound train?

It was a bright Friday afternoon when a Thalys train makes its way from Amsterdam to Paris. The date is 21 August 2015. Anthony Sadler is an American college student on his first trip to Europe with his two friends, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone, both of whom belong to the US Armed Forces. Stone himself is a former US Air Force staff sergeant.

(Left to right: Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone)

The clock struck 6, and in the blink of an eye, they became heroes. On board the train is a 25-year-old Moroccan man, Ayoub El Khazzan, a terrorist carrying an AKM assault rifle with nine magazines and a staggering 270 rounds of ammunition. He also had with him, a pistol and a bottle of petrol.

The trio pinned him down, but Khazzan resisted, and in the midst of struggle and chaos, Stone almost had his thumb severed. Eventually, they subdued him by beating him unconscious. This act of bravery by the three friends saved a train filled with 554 passengers.

Originally, Eastwood had wanted to cast actors in the leading roles. He did create a great movie out of American Sniper, where he turned beloved US military sniper Chris Kyle into a big-screen hero and inspired millions. Surely, someone like Chris Hemsworth would make a worthy terrorist-thwarting hero. However, at the eleventh hour, he made the decision to invite the three real-life heroes to re-enact their experiences on the big screen. Who else can bring out what these men went through than them? Eastwood said to The Telegraph: “I had looked at a lot of actors, good actors, but I was looking at the guys and I kept looking at their faces and finally one day I just said, do you guys think you could play yourselves?”

Besides, all three can bring their own interpretations of their experiences to the movie. According to Stone, all three friends have different versions of the event, sharing with Washington Post, “There’s what Alek saw,” he says. “There’s what Anthony saw. But Anthony didn’t see it from our perspective, so he’s like, ‘Wow, that happened?’ We all have three different perspectives. ‘No, that’s not what happened.’ And I’m like, ‘No, that happened, and I know!’ ”

The movie also has a supporting cast of real actors, like Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer and Tony Hale. And to give audiences some background, it actually chronicles the lives of the three friends, from how they became friends when they were just kids, to their time in the military, and eventually, their travels that lead directly to before the event.

With The 15:17 To Paris, Eastwood really pushes the boundaries of film-making, not in technology, but in the way the story is being told. To him, “there was no other way for him to shoot the film.” The film was shot at the actual location of the attempted attack for that added authenticity. We can’t wait.

Watch Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos share their experience on filming the movie: