The White House Should Get Behind, ‘The 15:17 to Paris’: What makes Americans so quick to take down terrorists–(the ultimate authority figures)

Just a hint to the Trump administration, after all the good things that happened in 2017, if I were them, I’d get behind this new Clint Eastwood film, The 15:17 to Paris. It’s coming out at the start of February, but I’m sure there will be advanced screenings at the end of January and after all the negative activity regarding the anti-Trump Spielberg movie with Tom Hanks about The Post, putting the seal of administration approval on this film will really launch 2018 in a positive pro-American light. After watching the preview and knowing Eastwood directed films nearly shot-by-shot, I knew enough about this story of three American young people on a train from Amsterdam to Paris that stopped a terrorist attack, to get excited about it. If a normal director handled the material, it might come off as a kind of television movie, but with Eastwood, there is a whole different layer that the master filmmaker taps into with great depth behind what on the surface seems to be very simple. And in this specific instance it answers the question—why do Americans have a tendency to stop terrorists outside of institutional reaction to these matters? Why not three French guys, or three English lads—or Germans? Why don’t we ever hear of those types of stories, why is it always Americans? Well, I know the answer and honestly this blog is about that topic almost daily. But I wanted to read the book of the movie to make sure that Eastwood’s source material contained that type of sentiment, like American Sniper did—and guess what—it does. Even better, it ends on a high note instead of the sad ending of American Sniper. I predict that this movie, The 15:17 to Paris will become the hottest film out of the gate in 2018 and will become many people’s favorite movie. I read the book over the last couple of days and it answered my questions very well and can report that this movie is the perfect companion in pop culture to the Trump presidency. It couldn’t have been slated for release at a better time—after the first full year of the Trump inauguration.

In a lot of ways the three heroes who stopped the terrorist Ayoub El-Khazzani (the ultimate authority figure who literally uses fear to invoke compliance)–Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone where social outcasts who had really hard times with authority figures. Their public-school experiences were miserable. Their teachers wanted to put them on attention deficit medicine, which Spencer’s mom became very angry about—to the extent that she pulled her son out of school and put him into a private church oriented school. Alek went with him and the two boys had daily problems with authority finding themselves always in the principal’s office. After a few years of that miserable failure the parents put the two kids back into a public school but one that they thought was better in the suburbs of Sacramento, California. There they met Anthony who taught the two misfits how to dress and think like other cool kids—which worked to a minimum effect and ended up bonding the three boys for life. After school Spencer and Alek bounced around. Spencer wanted to join the special forces but got bumped because essentially, he couldn’t learn to sew. He continued to get bumped down the military ladder as his classic problem with authority figures held him back tremendously. But as life does often, things stabilized and to try to outpace those resentments in their young lives the three boys managed to meet in Europe for a grand vacation while they still could, which is how they found themselves on The 15:17 to Paris.

The book arrived at my house on a nice day during a Christmas vacation as the snow was falling slowly outside. I had been reading several books that day, but I was really excited to get my hands on this one for a specific purpose. One thing that Eastwood knows that the rest of Hollywood has forgotten is what Americans are. In the case of these boys when they were in high school, they were not the popular kids. They did not take orders well. They were very rebellious, but in the essence of their core personalities, they were good kids. They just needed a chance to do something and they were always on the outlook for what that might be. So when it happened on a train to Paris, they were ready to pounce. I would say that the goal of every American is to be one of these types of people, but in our education system and then in our introductions to the outside world of employment we are always looking to put saddles on those wild horses breaking them into normalcy. But deep down inside we love the wild stallions of youth and we cheer that they might make it into adulthood free and happy—even as most of us yield to the pressure and tap out.

America hates authority figures even though all of our institutions are filled with them. We learn very early in public school to find our “peer group” and for kids like these, they never really do because they can’t yield authority to others who control those groups. What the institutions of American life fail to understand, including Hollywood these days, is that even those in the peer groups yearn to be as free as people like Spencer and Alek were. Of course the anxiety that young kids like Spencer, Alek and Anthony felt at not fitting into any particular peer group was enormous, what reality later tells is that all the world fantasizes about being one of those rogues in life who does what they want whenever they want to. I’ve personally never met a person whom I’ve spoken to one on one who doesn’t have at least a little of this individualistic fantasy in them—even in Europe and Asia. But in America we have a system that allows people like Spencer, Alek, and Anthony to have a good shot at success if they can figure out how to outsmart the system, and ironically some of the best and brightest of our culture are these types of people. But it’s not easy and in most cases people do die trying.

So here were three unbroken American stallions unsaddled roaming through the French countryside looking to make their mark in the world any way possible when this dumbass terrorist put the opportunity right in their lap. The fact that they were in their 20s and unbroken says a lot about the nature of American life—because even though it is hard to function in the world as a rugged individualist who hates authority—in America you can do it while still making a living and getting though the education process. Because of that, they were there when the world needed them. There are others like them, and they are a rare breed, but they are specifically an American creation. In other nations they would have been saddled in life one way or another and broken before they were 18 years of age—likely earlier.

Once I was able to get through the book I was able to see how Eastwood would shoot this movie. He understands this unsaddled sentiment, you can see it most in his movies like White Hunter Black Heart, Heartbreak Ridge, even going all the way back to the first western he directed, High Plains Drifter. Eastwood has never been a fan of authority figures, so it was obvious that his decision to put these young guys into the movie playing themelves was because he wanted to get that raw untamed element that is central to their characters on the screen for all to see. He understands the power of this kind of story and it looks to me like he held nothing back. As a person who is just mildly obsessed with this very specific American condition, that is why I am so excited about this project. And as a strategist of a good reputation this is a film that is very Trumpian. It would be wise for those who have the president’s ear….hint, hint……to have a nice screening at the White House with the stars and Eastwood there for a little dinner to launch this film. It is going to break box office records and will be big for Warner Bros—so why not help it strong out of the gate? Let the young men get their picture next to Trump—and more for their benefit, Melania. I think it represents all the reasons Trump was elected in the first place—and Eastwood understands that. Look for this one to be BIG in 2018.

Rich Hoffman

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