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Film / The 15:17 to Paris

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The 15:17 to Paris is a 2018 film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Dorothy Blyskal, based on the autobiography The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Soldiers by Jeffrey E. Stern, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos.

The film chronicles the 21 August 2015 terrorist attack onboard a Thalys train between Amsterdam and Paris with a stop in Brussels (the terrorist got onboard there and the train left at 15:17, hence the title) and the heroic action by three American tourists, who happened to be soldiers, to stop it.

The film stars the three Americans — Stone, Sadler and Skarlatos — as themselves. Additional cast includes Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer.


Provides examples of:

  • Ambiguously Brown: Ayoub El-Khazzani is this, having a noticeably darker skin tone to the white characters, but no real indications of his ethnicity (he is Moroccan in real life and is portrayed by an Iranian-American).
  • America Saves the Day: Zig-Zagged. On the one hand, the main trio are Americans and were the ones who did the hardest job (taking down an armed terrorist). On the other, a Frenchman and an Englishman both contributed to taking El-Khazzani down, and it’s the French police that work as The Cavalry to save the wounded and arrest El-Khazzani.
  • America Won World War II:
  • Ammunition Backpack: El-Khazzani wears a plain black one, which is packed with hundreds of rounds of ammunition for his attack.
  • As Himself: The three American soldiers who stopped the attack reenact the events as themselves. Some other people involved were also cast as themselves such as Mark Moogalian, Isabelle Risacher Moogalian and Chris Norman.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Spencer and Alek’s public school teacher thinks they have this problem, as they’re doing poorly in school and Alek keeps staring out the window during class. Alek’s mother points out that this isn’t a very firm prognosis, and the film similarly never shows him having any noticeable symptoms of the disorder.
  • Autobiographical Role: Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler all portray themselves in this recreation of the Thalys terrorist attack.
  • Badass Bystander: Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Mark Mooligan and Chris Norman are Real Life examples and reenact their heroic action onscreen.
  • Based on a True Story: The Tag Line itself says "The true story - The real heroes".
  • Bound and Gagged: What El-Khazzani ends up as after he’s choked out. Anthony, Chris Norman and a conductor tie up his arms and legs with Chris’s shirt to prevent him from causing any more havoc when he wakes up.
  • The Cavalry: The French police are waiting when the train pulls into the Arras station, where they take care of the wounded and arrest El-Khazzani.
  • Celebrating the Heroes: The film concludes with the real televised ceremony where then-French President François Hollande honors Spencer, Alek, Anthony and Chris Norman for stopping the attack, awarding them the Legion of Honour.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Spencer’s Judo and medical training during his time in the Air Force allow him to both take out El-Khazzani and save Mooligan’s life after he’s shot in the neck.
  • Choke Holds: Spencer puts El-Khazzani in one and knocks him out with it. This didn’t stop El-Khazzani from nearly slashing his thumb off and stabbing the back of his head with a boxcutter.
  • Closed Circle: The main reason everybody fights back against El-Khazzani. Given that they’re stuck on a fast-moving train with no way to get off, overwhelming El-Khazzani is the only real way to stop him from killing anybody.
  • Coolest Club Ever: The trio go to one in Amsterdam, drinking and partying all night long. Deconstructed in that while they admit they had a good time, the alcohol made them do a bunch of embarrassing things and left them with a nasty hangover.
  • Convenient Misfire: When Spencer rushes El-Khazzani, the latter pulls the trigger and finds the gun jammed. Alek later remarks how unlikely that should be, as do the closing credits (which say it was a thousand to one chance).
  • Dean Bitterman: The principal of the Christian school comes off as one, treating the main trio’s misbehaviors as serious incidents that will lead to delinquency. While he is somewhat justified in this, his disdain for the trio largely comes from them being raised by single mothers, making him come off as vindictive and petty.
  • Delinquents: What the parents and teachers of Spencer, Alek and Anthony see them as. Given how they constantly talk back to teachers and even TP someone’s tree for laughs, they probably have a point.
  • Depth Deception: Spencer has this problem In-Universe, as he’s unable to accurately judge different depths of perception. This prevents him from joining the Air Force Pararescue, since depth perception is very necessary for that duty.
  • Disappeared Dad: All three of the main trio are raised by their single mothers, with their fathers never showing up in the film.
  • Eagleland: Type 3. While America is portrayed in an overall positive light, the film makes it clear that there’s plenty of problems underlying its existence (faulty school systems, homes torn apart by divorce, and the lack of direction many American youth have).
  • Everybody Lives: While Mark Mooligan is shot and Spencer is severely slashed, absolutely nobody involved in the attack is killed.
  • Fingore: During his struggle with El-Khazzani, Spencer gets his thumb severely slashed to the point the top half is almost completely severed.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The attack is successfully stopped and the heroes are all commended for their bravery. And even if you didn’t know the story of the attack, you know that all the main characters will survive since they’re playing themselves.
  • Glamorous Single Mother: Completely averted. While the boys’ mothers are played by the pretty Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer, they do not have easy lives. One of the major themes of the first half of the film is how tough it is for them to raise children by themselves, and how it may be contributing to their sons’ listlessness.
  • Government Drug Enforcement: What Spencer and Alek’s mothers see the public school teacher’s recommendation of ADD medication as. In their minds, it’s just a way of repressing a problem rather than really dealing with it. Their reaction was pretty justified, as this is the counselor's instant solution for what's mild behavior that doesn't strongly indicate they've got ADD (none show any signs of it later).
  • Gun Nut: Spencer is one as a kid. He owns a wide variety of Airsoft guns, and even drags out his mother’s real-life rifle to show Anthony.
  • How We Got Here: Some of the flashbacks are about where the three main characters were before they stepped on that train.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: Mark Mooligan gets one from El-Khazzani, being shot through the neck when he tries to run away with El-Khazzani’s assault rifle.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: During the struggle with Spencer, El-Khazzani tries to shoot him in the head with his pistol. The problem is the magazine is empty and the only bullet in the chamber was used on Mooligan.
  • Kubrick Stare: El-Khazzani gives one to the bathroom mirror on the train, presumably to prepare himself for his upcoming attack.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: At the scene with the terracotta horses.
    Anthony: Whoa, guys. Hold your horses.
    Spencer: Wow. Really, bro?
  • Light Is Not Good: El-Khazzani wears bright white clothes in all of his scenes. He’s also a terrorist that’s trying to kill dozens of people on the train.
  • Lots of Luggage: A downplayed example. Spencer tells Anthony to pack light since they’re visiting lots of European cities in such a short time. Anthony instead brings a large suitcase and soon regrets having to lug it all around Rome and Amsterdam.
  • Male Gaze: Spencer and Anthony stare up the hotel keeper’s skirt when she walks up the stairs and mentions how many sights there are to see in Rome.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: El-Khazzani’s assault rifle jamming just when Spencer rushes him is such an unlikely occurrence that the trio are left wondering if was simply a coincidence or if there might’ve been some higher power on their side.
  • Middle Eastern Terrorists: A rather subdued example. While Ayoub El-Khazzani was from Morocco and had expressed radical Islamic beliefs before the attack, none of this is revealed in the film itself.
  • Million to One Chance: Alek remarks that it was highly unlikely for El-Khazzani’s gun to jam right at the moment Spencer rushed him. The closing credits further elaborates that it was a thousand-to-one chance of such a jam occurring.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The movie's opening act takes place when the protagonists are in middle school.
  • Mistaken for Terrorist: After El-Khazzani has been restrained, Alek walks to the front of the train to tell people that the attack is over. Unfortunately, he’s still holding El-Khazzani’s assault rifle, leading many people to think he’s part of the attack. It’s only when another passenger recognizes him that he’s able to calm them down.
  • More Dakka: El-Khazzani brought over 300 rounds of ammunition with him, undoubtedly to use in his attack. Fortunately, the passengers stop him from unleashing most of it.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: El-Khazzani tries to slash Spencer with a box cutter while in a choke hold, but can’t break his grip in time before he passes out.
  • No Name Given: While he and his actor’s name are listed in the credits, nobody ever calls Ayoub El-Khazzani by his name within the film. Justified, given how everybody’s too concerned with his attack to care.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: The three leads are played by the heroes of the events themselves and not by professionally trained actors.
  • Pistol-Whipping: When Alek gets ahold of the terrorist’s assault rifle, he starts hitting El-Khazzani in the face with the butt of the rifle.
  • Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie: A flavor two version. Outside of a brief shot of the World Trade Centers, the only terrorist incident examined is the one on the train. The rest of the movie is just looking at the lives of the main characters as they grow up.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns:
  • Shirtless Scene: El-Khazzani is wearing only pants when he starts his attack.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slice of Life: Other than the climactic terrorist attack, the rest of the film is looking at the three main characters going through their various lives.
  • Something We Forgot: Alek has this moment in Afghanistan, when he realizes he left his backpack full of important ammunition and gear. It’s resolved quickly, with him getting everything but his hat back.
  • Sucky School: The public school is portrayed as this, being a place filled with disinterested teachers that push psychiatric drugs on their students. But the Christian school isn’t much better, with the teachers being overly tyrannical and nosy about the boys’ private lives.
  • Thriller on the Express: What the film becomes during the climax. An armed assailant is making his way towards the front of the train, and there’s no way to get off.
  • Training Montage: Spencer goes through one when he loses weight to join the Air Force.
  • The Voiceless: El-Khazzani never speaks onscreen, outside of a few grunts during his struggle with Spencer.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Most of El-Khazzani’s screentime is spent with him going shirtless. It’s a decidedly unsexy version though, given how he’s trying to kill as many passengers as he can.

Alternative Title(s): The Fifteen Seventeen To Paris