The heavy handedness of the story of these three as kids very quickly proves that Eastwood is setting out to make a jingoistic, "America rules!" film, as these kids play with guns, say their prayers each night, and authority be damned, will do what they want when they want, because, 'Murica! The three (along with several other courageous folks that the movie's nationalistic pride completely erases from the picture, similar to what Argo, and more recently, Dunkirk did) became internationally known after they displayed remarkable courage and foiled an attempted terror attack in a Paris-bound train.
The trio was on a train from Amsterdam to Paris on a European vacation on August 21, 2015 when a suspected terrorist opened fire on passengers.
They became instant celebrities and were honored by both the French and USA governments for their heroism.
With the movie now in theaters, the three are considering pursuing careers on the screen despite backgrounds that do not include acting. It was too astronomical for it to be just chance.
On the other hand, consider the fact-based disappointment "The 15:17 to Paris", a slow-paced film about a high-speed train. Clint Eastwood thought their story would make a good movie, and he also thought the three young men ought to play themselves in the film.
As far as the three friends are concerned, any account of their story would be incomplete if it left out their Christian faith. The key foreshadowing, played up in the trailers, arrives when a reflective Stone says: "Ever feel like life is just pushing us toward something, some greater objective?"
References to God and prayer can be found throughout the film.
A group of friends who met in junior high school take on an global terrorist threat in "The 15:17 to Paris".
In another scene, Skarlatos' mother (portrayed by Jenna Fischer) tells her son that, in her prayers for his well-being, she had received the assurance that he was destined for something great.
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They said El-Khazzani boarded the train with a Kalashnikov rifle, pistol and box cutter - in a story tailor-made for Eastwood's fascination with real-life modern heroes. The film was worth watching because of the bravery depicted by the passengers. "As long as you're doing something to contribute, I think the world would be a better place".
But the thing to admire about The 15:17 to Paris is precisely its artlessness. For Stone, it has presented "a huge platform" from which "to spread the word of God". When I was 75, I could do 25 dips!' "So we were like, 'OK, well, let's see how many you can do now!' and he hops up there (on the bars) and does 10 body-weight dips at 87 years old!"
The three lifelong friends exhibit nearly no charisma through the lens and their monotone, staccato delivery of clunky, jarring dialogue robs Eastwood's film of spontaneity, naturalism or humour.
Despite the terrifying nature of that day, Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler say it wasn't distressing for them to relive the encounter.
Give Eastwood credit. When it comes to the actual struggle on the train, the casting, along with Eastwood's staging and camera direction, creates an intense, visceral viewing experience.
When they went to visit the Oscar-winning director they assumed he would be introducing him to the actors he had chosen to play them - the likes of Chris Hemsworth and Zac Efron. "We don't want to ruin our life story, either".
SS: "I think that's kind of the moral of our story is that we're just three ordinary guys that were put into a insane situation". Furthermore, once they boarded the train they switched seats from coach to first class, which put them in the train vehicle where they would encounter the assailant.
Skarlatos hopes that the film will speak to those who struggle to understand their life's goal. "I'm just extremely blessed to be in this position it just doesn't happen and the only way this could of happened is somebody of Mr. Eastwood's caliber", said Sadler.
Grasska is assistant editor of The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego.