The 15:17 to Paris ★★★★½

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The 15:17 to Paris challenges the American ideal of heroism. Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler are brought up in Christian schools and playing with guns. In an early scene, Spencer and Alek's mothers visit one of their school teachers who suggests they have ADD and need medication. A moment that has caused controversy is when the mothers are storming out, Spencer's mother (Judy Greer) yells back at the teacher "My God is bigger than your statistics." This to me shows an important element of how the boys are brought up. They are bound by traditional and unwavering views of faith. This happens later when Spencer's mother sticks up for him again. The casting of the leads as themselves works heavily in the films favor for me. There are moments of casual humor and some awkwardness that feel more natural than any actor could have done. I remember a scene that displayed something inherently hypocritical about American culture and I was struck by how the scene ends with a pan out to an American flag (If I remember the specifics of the scene or if someone else tells me I'll edit this part). This comes back when Spencer and Anthony are in Germany and they falsely believe that America was about to storm Hitler's bunker when it was Russia. We see Spencer and Alek struggle with failure and ineptness in the military they are not extraordinary people. The film brings up statistics quite a bit, but there is no statistics for their instincts during the titular scene on the train. My favorite moment was when Eastwood juxtaposes Anthony running unarmed through the train to say that everything is ok and the passengers are initially in fear due to his darker skin, and Alek running through the train with an AK-47 and no one freaks out and one passenger says he's one of the good guys because of his lighter skin.