Verdict: An underwhelming portrayal of a hero’s story.
Based on the true story of the Atlanta Olympics bombing hero-turned-suspect Richard Jewell, this film is directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by Billy Ray, this story is based on Marie Brenner’s 1997 Vanity Fair article and a book titled The Suspect. This is Clint Eastwood’s 38th film and it will be interesting to see what the Gran Torino, Sully and American Sniper director has in store for us.
What’s Richard Jewell About:
Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser), a middle-aged Atlanta man, lives with his mother Barbara Jewell (Kathy Bates). Richard wants to be a police officer one day and considers himself as part of the law enforcement of the land. Over the years, he picks up security jobs at various places and tries to do everything right by law enforcement, even if it means he has to stop college kids from drinking in their rooms. He even goes to the length of carrying out random on-road (not part of his job description) drug checks on college kids driving into the college campus.
At the 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympics, Richard is stationed as a security personnel. This is when he discovers a suspicious bag and reports to the on-ground police officers who initially do not take him seriously. But when they realize the bag contains explosives, chaos breaks out. It’s too late already and the bomb explodes leading to two deaths and leaving many injured.
Initially hailed as a hero, Richard gets all the attention. But his happiness is short-lived as he gets accused of being the bomber. Richard and Barbara’s world come crashing down overnight when FBI agents Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) and his partner Benett (Ian Gomez) and ambitious reporter Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) lead this accusation. The only person Richard thinks of turning to is Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell), an attorney at a firm Richard previously worked in. What follows is an emotional and brutal investigation that ends with the revelation of the truth.
Paul Walter Hauser does a great job and gets into the skin of the character – Richard Jewell, he was signed on to portray. Sam Rockwell as the underdog lawyer does great as well. Olivia Wilde does a fairly decent job of portraying her character. But it’s Kathy Bates who steals the show with her powerful acting. She absolutely nails the press conference scene, the emotional outburst she has at home and even the witty lines she was handed. Performances by Paul, Kathy and Sam Rockwell are compelling and keep the movie interesting at all times. Accused by an establishment he believed in the most, Paul’s performance makes one think about all that went through the mind of this innocent man.
What Could’ve Been Better:
Clint Eastwood’s depiction of this true story is reportedly not as truthful as it claims to be. The director paints the journalist Kathy Scruggs as an opportunistic reporter and also portrayed her character as willing to sleep with an FBI agent for a confidential piece of the investigation. This, however, is reportedly not true. Clint Eastwood could have definitely avoided that part of her character. Jon Hamm as a resentful FBI agent has nothing much to offer but just anger and resentment.
Why You Should Watch:
Watch this movie for the hero that Richard Jewell actually was. His story needs to be told and told and Clint Eastwood gets it somewhat right.