On July 27, 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia, an improvised explosive device was detonated during the Summer Olympics. While the event itself is of course a tragedy all its own, having taken the life of one innocent bystander and injuring 111 others, it was the events that followed that truly left a stain on the event celebrated the world over. Simply based on a profile of previous lone bombers, one man was picked, as randomly as it would seem as pulling a name from a hat without looking, and labeled the number one suspect. The twist? The man in question was Richard Jewell, the newly celebrated hero of Centennial Olympic Park. It was Jewell who, a security guard at the event, notified authorities and helped create a perimeter saving the lives of countless innocence. So, naturally, the FBI targets him. So much for civic duty am I right?
In this retelling of real life events, Clint Eastwood sets the stage for a battle after the explosions have long since stopped. Paul Walter Hauser steps into the shoes of Jewell, a man who long believed that authority, the very people who tried to crucify him, were to be respected and revered no matter the situation. As the reality of his situation begins to set in he starts to see the cracks in a system he once put so much faith into. Trying to maintain who he was as a person raised on seemingly blind respect, especially for police and government officials, he begins to realize his survival depends on him coming to grips with his current predicament. This means fighting back against those that don’t really seem to care about actual criminal procedure such as studying the evidence clearly absolving Jewell of any wrongdoing.
This is the kind of film that not only gets someone’s story told to a wider group of people but shines an unforgiving light on those who, in this case, don’t seem to care about due process, who don’t care about ruining lives to save face. I realize I’m basing my opinions on a real case from the perspective of a Hollyweird movie but it seems as though the FBI pursued Jewell, even in the face of mounting evidence pointing elsewhere, simply because they didn’t want to admit they were wrong. They would look absolutely stupid and so they chose to push forward with the societal public hanging of one Richard Jewell. His greatest mistake was being a man whose hobbies placed him comfortably within the confines of their premade theories already cooked up and ready to be served, main course… his head on a platter.
This movie will infuriate you for many reasons but primarily because it raises a few nagging, truly unnerving questions brought up by Jewell himself: What happens when someone else finds a suspicious package? Looking back on this situation why would anyone want to report something? Why risk ending up like Richard Jewell? Such malicious antagonizing from both the federal government and the “all knowing” media promotes a society where things like this don’t get the attention required. And who can blame anyone in such a precarious situation questioning if they should even bother reporting a possible threat. It certainly gives me pause having now learned of this story. “See something, say something… and we’ll pin it on you.” How about fuck you. I completely understand the process of elimination, the need to clear anyone possibly involved in something such as this, including a proclaimed hero of the day. However to do it in such a manner as they did is nothing short of despicable and quite frankly a betrayal of our protections sworn to be upheld by these agencies and departments.
Paul Walter Hauser leads the cast as Jewell and resurrects the kind soul this man proved to be. He was naive at times but never without the nerve to speak up for himself and without question his mama, Bobi Jewell, played brilliantly by Kathy Bates. On his side in the ring of FBI and media ridicule is Sam Rockwell playing the sometimes indifferent but always persistent lawyer, Watson Bryant. He is sometimes a comedic relief valve and other times the refocus switch directing Jewell where to go. Rockwell is a standout here. Rounding out the cast is Olivia Wilde as the shoot-from-the-hip type journalist, Kathy Scruggs who without second thought served up Jewell to the public as the number one suspect. Jon Hamm gives face to the government juggernaut that is the FBI and delivers a cold, calculated performance of a man uncaring of possible mistakes made by his agency. He found his target day one and will stop at nothing, will lie in every regard allotted him to nail his suspect, the very threatening Richard Jewell. Note the sarcasm in that last sentence.
This movie can be frustrating because of the circumstances of the real story, but it’s always entertaining and unquestionably eye opening for many reasons. The cast delivers, Eastwood proves he still has a good amount of tenacity left in him and showcases yet again his love for the American Hero, whoever that may be. From Chris Kyle to Richard Jewell, if there’s an inspirational, American story of heroism to be told you can be damn sure he’s going to tell it.
While his perspective of these stories can at times be over sentimentalized, they are always from a place of absolute respect of both the people themselves and the moments that made them the eventual subjects of American reverence and future characters in a Clint Eastwood biopic. He has a very discernable style and Richard Jewell is no exception, so for better or worse this is definitely a Clint Eastwood movie, complete with all the patriotism you can possibly handle.
Rated R For: language including some sexual references, and brief bloody images
Runtime: 129 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Drama, Biography
Starring: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Olivia Wilde, Jon Hamm
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 3.5
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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