'15:17 to Paris' tells real story


By Shirrel Rhoades
At the Movies

Saturday, February 10, 2018

To call “15:13 to Paris” a biographical thriller is an understatement. In telling the true story of the three Americans who helped stop the 2015 Thalys train attack, director Clint Eastwood took it one step further: He cast the actual guys as leads in the movie.

Based on the book “The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Soldiers,” the movie tells how Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos, along with a Brit and two Frenchmen, stopped a gunman on a Paris-bound train.

While riding the train between Amsterdam and Brussels, the three childhood friends heard a gunshot and breaking glass. A train employee came racing down the aisle followed by a 25-year-old Moroccan man brandishing an AKM assault rifle. Another passenger tackled the gunman, but failed to stop him. Stone grabbed the man but got stabbed in the neck and eyebrow and almost lost his thumb. Skarlatos seized the assailant’s rifle. Sadler and the Brit finished subduing the man.

As a result, the guys were made Knights of the Legion of Honour; they also received various military medals and got invited to the White House.

Of late, Clint Eastwood’s filmmaking career has focused on American heroism – from “ Sully” to “Flags of Our Fathers.” But rather than turning to Hollywood stars like Bradley Cooper or Tom Hanks for this project, he cast the real participants.

As Eastwood tells it, “I was looking through a lot of actors on tape, good actors too, and they would have done a good job, but I kept looking at the guys, I kept looking at their faces and going over this, and finally one day I said I think you could play yourself.”

Eastwood filmed his cast at the real places where the events occurred. “It’s not an intellectual art form, it’s an emotional art form,” he says. “And the reason that they did well was they were back in the same locations, with the same feel.”

What attracted Eastwood to the film? “ It was a tribute to the common man,” he says. “These were just young men going on a trip, and when this terrorist got on the train, they jumped into action and potentially saved a lot of lives.”

“The Disaster Artist” is a disaster of sorts

“The Disaster Artist” is not a movie about James Franco, although his recent career reversals might make you think so. You see, the #metoo movement has him in its sights.

However, James Franco did produce, direct, and star in the film. It was nominated for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. And Franco won as Best Actor - Musical or Comedy. He also got a nod from the SAG Awards.

But when accusations of sexual misconduct hit, Franco got all but shut out at the Academy Awards.

That said, “The Disaster Artist” is still a pretty good film.

We’re not going to argue movie morality here, but if you’re willing to go see a Woody Allen or Roman Polanski movie, there’s no reason you wouldn’t go see this one.

It’s the true-life story of a goofball named Tommy Wiseau who in 2003 made a very bad movie called “The Room.” Wiseau makes Ed Wood look like a movie maestro.

The movie is based on a same-named book by Tom Bissell and Greg Sestero. Wiseau was something of a mystery man who met Greg in acting class. The duo moved to Los Angeles to look for acting roles, but when that doesn’t work out Wiseau decides to make his own “Hollywood movie” costarring his pal Greg. It doesn’t go well.

James Franco’s brother takes on the role of Greg. Seth Rogan plays the script supervisor who becomes the film’s de facto director. Pals Josh Hutcherson and Zac Efron turn up as actors in the film-within-a-film. Megan Mullaly is cast as Greg’s mother; Sharon Stone as Greg’s agent; and Melanie Griffith as the boys’ acting teacher.

You’ll undoubtedly see a certain parallel between James Franco and Tommy Wiseau: Like Franco with “The Disaster Artist,” Wiseau was the writer, director, producer, executive producer and star of “The Room.”

Moreover, Wiseau’s bad film turned out to be a disaster. And Franco’s good film is turning into a disaster thanks to #metoo .

Top Ten real-life Movie Heroes

Clint Eastwood’s “15:17 to Paris” makes us think of other movies about real-life heroes. Here’s our Top Ten list, but there are a number of other contenders. But these are worthy films:

10. “Hotel Rwanda” (2004) -- Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) is the general manager of the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, Rwanda, during the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. He saved the lives of more than 1,200 refugees by providing food and shelter.

9. “Saving Private Ryan” (1998) -- Capt. John Miller (Tom Hanks) sets out to locate Pvt. James Ryan during WWII. Director Stephen Spielberg’s depiction of the D-day invasion is a masterpiece of filmmaking.

8. “Erin Brockovich (2000) -- A consumer advocate (Julia Roberts) saves a tiny California town from being poisoned by their own drinking water.

7. “Gandhi” (1982) -- Mahatma Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) was the leader of the non-violent resistance to British rule in India.

6. “Norma Rae” (1979) -- A textile worker (Sally Field) stands up for fellow mill workers.

5. “Argo” (2012) -- Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is CIA “exfiltration” specialist who makes a fake movie in order to rescue six US embassy workers in Iran.

4. “Hacksaw Ridge” (2016) -- Pacifist Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) saves over 70 men in Okinawa during one of the bloodiest battles in WWII.

3. “All the President’s Men” (1976) -- Woodward and Bernstein (Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman) are the Washington Post reporters who brought down a president.

2. “Selma” (2014) -- Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) marches on Selma for Civil Rights.

1. “Schindler’s List” -- German businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) hires Jews for his factory as a means of saving them from Hitler.

Which hero would have been on your list? Audie Murphy in “To Hell and Back”? The passengers on “United 93”? You tell us.