It's impossible to write about "The 15:17 to Paris" as if it's just another movie up for review. For fans of Clint Eastwood and military hero movies, it's also impossible to ignore. Clint's alternately weird and compelling take on the men who foiled a 2015 French terror attack is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.
If you missed our video interview with the movie's stars, here's the daring choice Clint made for this movie: the real-life heroes U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone, Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler are played (respectively) by Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler.
Yep, Clint auditioned dozens of actors for the lead roles but decided that he wanted the real guys to relive that train confrontation with a terrorist as they traveled from Amsterdam to Paris.
Back when the movie was scheduled to hit theaters, we had an idea to compile a list of all military veterans who played themselves in a movie but we quickly hit a wall. Marine veteran Rudy Reyes played himself in "Generation Kill," HBO's 2008 series about the Iraq War, but he's supported by a large and talented ensemble cast and doesn't have to carry the show alone. WWII hero and Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy played himself the 1955 biopic "To Hell and Back," but that was more than a dozen roles into what turned out to be a long and successful career as a professional actor.
Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler aren't actors but the scenes aboard the train (which are intercut with scenes that show each character's personal history) are riveting. Once he decided to cast the real heroes, Eastwood convinced other passengers from the train to appear in the scene. Mark Moogalian, the passenger shot by the terrorist and saved thanks to Stone's training as a medic, relives that day and plays himself in the movie.
That's all incredibly moving in a way you might not expect. None of the guys seems destined for Hollywood but they're all game for whatever Eastwood asks them to do. This is definitely one of those movies that gets better on multiple viewings. Once you get past the shock of seeing non-actors in a movie like this, you start to see what Clint was going for the second time through.
Of course, that's not the way showbiz works. No director besides Clint Eastwood could've made this movie. He's been loyal to Warner Bros. for decades now and just made them truckloads of cash with "American Sniper." They probably figured they owe him some trust and he ended up making what's actually an experimental movie that blurs the line between art, documentary and reality.
If you want slick, this isn't it. If you trust Clint Eastwood to deliver something unlike anything you've seen before, this is a fascinating movie.