RICHARD JEWELL – 19’ Dir: Clint Eastwood
As with any true story told for the screen, there are bound to be inaccuracies and embellishments for dramatic purposes to illicit emotional responses and reactions from the viewer. It may be difficult to find a middle ground, when the writer\director may have a leaning towards specific characters, politics and even ethics. Clint Eastwood’s latest offering Richard Jewell, presents us a true story of an ordinary man, catapulted into extraordinary circumstances for which he is at once hailed a hero and then in a stricken twist of fate, is suddenly condemned for the same thing for which he was originally championed for.
Eastwood, with his typical masterful and impeccable storytelling technique, manages to avoid the pitfalls of taking an extremity of bias, to address the systemic facets and failures that ended up having to begrudgingly concede to its own nefarious mechanisms. As we witness the corruption and damage that usurped Jewell’s life, the film, while also a powerful indictment, is also prudent enough to not place too harsh a reprimand on those that contributed to destroying it. Eastwood observantly works within the framework of the institution’s role, what they do, what they represent and how they go about their administration. In Richard’s case, the media and the FBI were his tormenting naysayers.
Jewell, a heavyset everyman, lived with his mother in a modest apartment in Atlanta Georgia. Employed mostly by security companies and with aspirations to work officially as law enforcement, Richard, while well-meaning, tended to get offside of his employers due to his not quite orthodox and procedural approach to certain situations. While working at the 96’ Atlanta Centennial Park Olympic Games, Jewell spotted a suspicious object and called it in. Due to his efficient and timely observation, what turned out to be an explosive device, the fatality rate upon detonation was hugely diminished, (2 deaths), although injuries were still sustained. For this, Richard was signalled heroic. An FBI agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm), who was also with Richard on the night of the bombing, launched an investigation into the terrorist attack, in which Jewell’s world was suddenly turned topsy turvy. Richard ended up the prime suspect, no thanks to a hustle by Shaw’s media pal Kathy Scruggs, (Olivia Wilde), who was ravenous for a juicy story fuelled by her own inflated ego.
Paul Walter Hauser in his first major lead, after giving us diverting supporting roles in films such as I’ Tonya and BlacKkKlansman, turns in a stellar Oscar® worthy performance. He exposes Jewell, flaws and all, to make him as real and as credible as a movie character can be. Underneath his stolid and even somewhat fatuous being, here is a man that is afflicted by the turbulence of his situation yet struggles to convey what he is really feeling. His lawyer Watson Bryant, (Sam Rockwell), in a poignant scene, addresses this aspect with Jewell. The always dependable Kathy Bates as Richard’s mother Bobi, who also gets dragged down with her son, deservedly garnered this terrific film’s inexplicable one and only Oscar® nomination from last year. Richard Jewell comes highly recommended as one of the best and under-appreciated films of 2019. Richard Jewell available on DVD in the main Library - RIC
Bond Library Film Reviewer