Redemption in Paris: "15:17 to Paris," reviewed
This movie would have been more honest if it accepted that what these three young military men did was more or less a soldier's wet dream. They rose, when others panicked, and subdued someone who threatened hundreds of lives. How can we make everyone like that? Well, we can't, because ostensibly it is something we are stamping out of children by only reading disobedience as a behavioural disorder. The children who don't pay any attention in class but stare out windows, who are repeatedly in the principle's office, who seem to need medication for their extreme ADHD, may or may not be victims of too much mommy' all-over-them (and mommy' all-over-everyone-else too, including concerned teachers and principals) and too little daddy' counter -- the film allows this as an ambiguous issue; that is, it could be -- but they are exactly those we'll need in emergency because they'll be on top of any opponent that surfaces: they're trigger-ready to meet someone else's trigger-happy.
But of course this will only work when the opponent intrudes amongst civilians, for it simply isn't plausible that if the opponent barged into a military camp that only a select few wouldn't agree to hide under their desks as commanded, as the film portends is the case: every single one of them would be thinking on how their moms would react to hearing how in a moment of crisis if they were the ones who died with their tails between their legs / heads under their desks. They'd be bumping into one another, pushing each other aside, so they themselves could be the ones who could be accounted as having used a measly pen to stop an opponent with an assault rifle. The opponent would delight in their brawling, their drawing straws to be the one lucky to singularly risk life for great acclaim, as he mowed all of them down, without account if there was a misfire for they'd established for him all the time in the world. The instructor in the film would of had to show a filming of this scenario repeatedly, in fact, to have any chance of getting the soldiers-who-agree-to-hide-under-desks-when-an-armed-intruder-is-in-their-compound it ostensibly has learned it actually very much needs when the scenario is playing out for real.
It's too bad that the pen played only in a false-alarm scenario earlier in the film, for if it in fact had surfaced in the actual incident it would have brought to mind the resourcefulness of the terrorist ostensible "other," for mere paper-cutters were we know used to take down a 747 and a couple of indomitable New York towers, and that incident involved a whole bunch of people rising to take down a few terrorists but without it persevering as a tale to be retold and retold but rather one presented at first as a hopeful beacon but discarded for evidently serving only as a fodder for further laughing at our pretence to empowerment by a demonic-minded universe. And terrorists are forever doing things that they imagine -- rightly -- their mothers will admire them over. The dream vision of the end with the young soldiers with their mothers by their sides, is probably about the same one the terrorist himself had in mind awaiting his ultimate fate. Not just a thousand virgins, but actually primarily very happy mothers who've seen their possibly wayward sons redeemed through destruction of the infidel, is what they imagine awaits. Do we really want to nurture men who require our not looking too closely at the infidel, as the film agrees not to do, because it doesn't take much of one to see a dangerous mutuality?
I was happy for the men in the film, but in the way that I'm happy to see, really, anyone accomplish something in a manner that makes them feel like they matter. I'm sorry however that if they have any doubt about themselves, about what their early difficulties with school really showed about them, about their difficulty following through on goals, in not learning any ability to subdue a desire to balk/humiliate authority... in anonymously toilet-papering their mom's homes, in coming to prefer the company of bros to an active dating life, is abolished as legitimate things to ruminate about for our canonizing them -- and everything in their lives that lead to them proving in actuality such a grand species of men -- as heroic emblems.
We might have mitigated this if following our providing them with an award, we reminded them of incidents where people could have lived but who lost their lives precisely owing to the presence of people there who were ADHD distraction seekers, looking to make any happenstance instance into a 15:19 kind of one that stalled their perennial jitteriness to reveal their grand purpose in life. They were the right people for this particular incident; but some of those who didn't react like they did could easily be the right ones to have around in another. That is, they may persist in having problems that shouldn't be eliminated out of view simply for their having in this incidence lead to act of heroism. For their sake, we should still hope to communicate this.
The sophisticated French learned to love these men. The polished French statesmen, the French president, gives them an acclaim that washes away all vestigial memory of his grand lesser -- the still fairly-well-tailored school principle of their origins, who'd curtly assessed them as destroyed youth only, and their moms, as rampant mad-women. This matters to Eastwood, a lot. It's given a large show. Respect that was refused, granted by someone even better, for actions within reach of the uneducated and unrefined. This may be why we love the 15:17 story: it's a Cinderella story of full recovery after having been cast away by early authorities as a hopeless reject.
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In Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino," the boy, growing up with a single-mother and in an all-female environment, was doomed to a life of delinquency, prison. He is saved by the significant intervention of Eastwood's character, Walt Kowalski, who helps protect his journey into manhood. "15:17" presents a similar scenario -- only the number of single-mothers have been twinned, and they're even less agreeable: unlike in "Torino," they can't imagine they might be a bad influence on their sons -- and damn the infidel authority-figure who transgresses upon their parental privilege, who suggests as much!
And, in fact, the boy does look like he's on course for a life of pseudo-delinquency... not to a be a criminal, but to an under-achiever, a drifter in interests and jobs, and basically unreliable. No single man steps in to save him, but in film time the (male) principal gets almost as much as the mothers do, so is made to seem the father-antagonist that actually wasn't there. This Oedipal theme comes through later, in that the French president's appreciation of them comes across as an antidote, a rebuttal, to the principal, who had cursed them all as useless, which works to enlarge our unconscious sense of him as the father in their lives, who in reality actually wasn't there. It permits the fantasy that the mothers in their lives -- who like in "Gran Torino," were their complete surround -- had basically only ever been an accompaniment.
Eastwood portrays more emotionally astray single mothers in this film, but he much more neglects the relevance of this for their boys by in a sense eliding this inescapable and intense one-to-one relationship in the movie and replacing it with a de facto triangular Oedipal one, where there are options "out" for the boys. Blunt reality replaced by a sleight of hand: One could say in a sense that some courage has been lost, as early moms are being recalled but more to hand them back their ultimate innocence, and their boys scrubbed as hooligans and replaced as heroes, as they prepare to sacrifice their lives to the approval of the state.