Clint Eastwood is one of those directors whose films are very realistic. His most recent film, Richard Jewell is a true story and Eastwood directs this drama in a way that shows how corrupt crime investigations can get. The film includes all the details that illustrate Richard Jewell’s strengths and weaknesses. It seems to be clear in this case that he is a hero, however a variety of media views him as the exact opposite. Richard Jewell is a two-and-a-half-hour movie filled with the logistics and background of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing. Much of what the investigators uncover is misleading that negatively impacts Richard Jewell. The question that I found myself asking is, “Why would the authorities shine the harsh spotlight on Richard Jewell?”
Paul Walter Hauser plays Richard Jewell, a security guard who works security jobs in a variety of places. Due to some career challenges, he is not at the top level of authority and is viewed as a rent-a-cop. Despite being underemployed, he takes following the law very seriously and is not a pushover. After being terminated from his full-time position, he lands a job working security for the Olympics. During one of the entertainment events, Jewell comes across a suspicious bag that is full of explosives and he alerts higher levels of security who were able get many of the people in the event evacuated. Initially, Jewell is considered a hero, but soon thereafter certain government investigators, press officials and security experts begin to view the bombing as terrorism and believe Richard Jewell is responsible.
Government security officials, Tom Shaw and Dan Bennet (Jon Hamm and Ian Gomez), review the scenario and paint Jewell as the enemy. Journalist Kathy Scruggs (played by Olivia Wilde) is trying to figure out the background evidence to determine if Jewell is guilty as charged. Jewell’s attorney, Watson Bryant (played by Sam Rockwell), is trying to help coach Richard learn how to speak during the investigations and figure out how to make the authorities understand he is not the terrorist. And Jewell’s mom, Bobi Jewell (played by Kathy Bates), is worried about her son due to the stress and tension caused by the unwanted negative attention. Jewell’s world is spiraling downhill as he is pulled between those who view him as their hero and those who view him as a villain.
Richard Jewell had me perplexed at various moments throughout the movie. I kept asking myself, “Why blame Richard?” “Is it because he is socially awkward?” “Is it his appearance?” These questions and many others go unanswered. The audience does, however, get to witness Jewell questioned by the authorities and his attorney and see just how difficult the entire legal process was for him.
I felt the performances in Richard Jewell were top-notch. The script is slow at moments, but intentionally slow to help viewers have a better idea of what happened during the investigation process. Watson conducts many practice interviews with Richard and goes into deep detail with him about why honesty is important. In addition, he explains how Jewell can be manipulated by the people investigating him to help make him out to be a terrorist. Watson even goes through Jewell’s home to see if any items or apparel might raise questions with investigators. During this mock search, Rockwell’s dialogue is artistic demonstrating his agitation with all the potential negative repercussions of what Jewell has in his home. The sad part is that Jewell has no intent of harming anyone whatsoever, his only intent is for the world to be safe. Viewers see that positive intent in the beginning of the movie and know it throughout the film.
Richard Jewell is one of those movies that I define as “almost” a masterpiece. I found it to be what I would expect in a Clint Eastwood film. It includes an opening that is slow and not that positive. The kind of opening that Eastwood used in Million Dollar Baby (2004) mixed with a serious subject and tons of curiosity. However, the conflicts in this story are quiet and not action-packed, but are presented in the correct context. The film’s dialogue is attention-grabbing and makes Richard Jewell a captivating ride of truth vs. deceit. Therefore, I would give Richard Jewell three and a half stars.
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