The 15:17 to Paris, based on the book by Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Jeffrey Stern
To mention first the merits of this motion picture, it is noteworthy that the event that is celebrated here highlights that ordinary people can be capable of heroism, extraordinary bravery, spirit of self- sacrifice, perseverance, citizenship, humanity, transcendence.
Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone are the protagonists of this feature and they play themselves in a film that was not well received by the professional critics- it has a Metascore of only 45 out of 100- and the audiences have only rated it as 5 out of 10.
This is in spite of the fact that we have the phenomenal, legendary author of Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, American Sniper, Unforgiven and so many other classics at the helm of this film inspired from actual events.
Seeing this film is not the biggest mistake you can make, seeing as there is action-, real people- have actually experienced the terror, and the authenticity might be augmented by the presence of the real heroes on screen, retelling their own experiences.
However, there are flaws and overall, there is a feeling that, apart from the climax on the train, the rest of the motion picture is, if not boring, not overwhelmingly exciting and rewarding.
Perhaps it is because we have been there before; watching passages from the childhood of the protagonists is not the most thrilling, exhilarating time most of us have had in front of the big screen.
Another possibility is that the men playing the heroes- although spectacular, glorious in what they did on the 15:17 to Paris- are not so gifted in making audiences enjoy themselves with the performances on the set of the first film they take part in.
As children, the protagonists that would later demonstrate the qualities of Supermen have had issues in school, where a teacher calls the mothers of Alek and Spencer are called for a meeting where the schoolteacher shows her limitations when she reprimands the children without a good reason.
One of them is watching out the window and his parent is right to retort that other students look out the window, it is preposterous to condemn that, but the teacher insists and recommends…medication.
In her limited, distorted view, if the mothers do not do that now, the sons would later have to resort to medicating themselves and it would be much worse- the reality contradicts this distorted perspective, for these humans became role models in their attitude on the fatidic train.
On the other hand, it could disconcerting, often hard to watch some of the children that are allowed currently to do –almost or is it all? - Whatever they want, when, where, at the volume, with the violence, the disregard for others that have not been the norm years ago.
Is this liberty and a great outlook for the future?
One could doubt that.
A good segment of the motion picture seems unnecessary in retrospect, even if it prepares the filed for the major confrontation and the climax of the film on the train that would change the lives of the heroes, who, with their exceptional courage, have saved the lives of a multitude, as stated by the French president.
The three friends talk about a trip to Europe, including Rome, where they visit the Coliseum, the question of including or skipping Paris, the encounter with an American woman who takes a picture for them and then they continue and have some drinks together.
That passage is not so exciting and it may be in large part because it pales when compared with the outstanding, phenomenal climax, during the attack on the train, the fight, the shooting, stabbing and not least, the intervention of Spencer Stone, who probably has saved the life of the shot victim, with his knowledge of first aid.
Indeed, the history of Spencer Stone and the special studies he has been through are relevant for his act of extreme dedication and selflessness, because we see in his history a pattern, the proof that what he did on the Thalys train was not an isolated incident, but part of his meaning in life.
When in training for the military, Spencer Stone and his colleagues faced an alarm, a message is broadcast while they are in class and the teacher says that they should follow the drill, block the door and take cover under the desks.
Only the outstanding Ubermensch Spencer Stone stands up and walks to the door, where he is waiting for the shooter that had been announced on the radio loud speakers, armed with a…pen, a fact that was mocked by the teacher who would be wondering what he will do with such a weapon, facing a man with a gun…well, he could take the John Cleese lesson from Monty Python, on what to do when a man armed with various things is attacking.
That first stand prepares the way for the fight with the terrorist that has been stopped by the amazing intervention of Spencer first and then his friends that have managed to prevent dozens of deaths, received the medal of honor from Francois Hollande, the French president who lauded this heroism, the humanity and quoted the Supermen: “one has to act in such situations”.
Forget Superman, Spiderman, Ironman and all the rest of the comic book characters…there are real people who act like Ubermensch in traumatic circumstances.