American security guard Richard Jewell saves thousands of lives from an exploding bomb at the 1996 Olympics, but is vilified by journalists and the press who falsely reported that he was a terrorist.
In 1996, a pipe bomb went off at Centennial Park during the Atlanta Olympics, killing 2 people and wounding many others. A security guard named Richard Jewell had found the device and alerted others, saving countless lives in the process, however in a short space of time he’d went from hero to suspect as the FBI and the media started to blame him for the crime. Clint Eastwood’s latest film retells this story in forensic detail, looking at the man behind the headlines and the injustice he faced at the hands of the media and the authorities.
Jewell is played by Paul Walter Hauser (who was great in ‘I, Tonya’) and we first meet him as he struggles to hold down a couple of jobs, firstly at a small law firm, and secondly as a campus security guard. He’s portrayed as well meaning, but naive, and his ambitions to succeed in law enforcement are overshadowed by a tendency to act beyond his remit. Soon after he gets a job working security at the Atlanta Olympics and his actions play a key role in reducing the impact of the bomb when it does go off, leading to some television interviews and a brief moment of fame. As well as focusing on Jewell and his life at home with his mother (a well cast Kathy Bates), we are introduced to the media and the FBI, who are both under severe pressure to identify the people behind the bomb as quickly as possible. Jewell’s prior job history and sketchy background make him an easy suspect for the authorities, and what follows is an example of how a life can be torn apart by a media frenzy.
The strongest parts of the film centre on Jewell himself and Paul Walter Hauser is really good in the central role, easily garnering our sympathy for the situation he faces. Kathy Bates is also good and I liked Sam Rockwell’s energy as his friend turner lawyer. It’s when the film moves away and explores the media and FBI angles that it’s less assured, particularly with its portrayal of Kathy Scruggs, who in Olivia Wilde’s performance feels over the top and as if it’s came from a different movie to the mostly sobering account of Jewell’s story. Eastwood’s unfussy direction is well suited to the material and I felt ‘Richard Jewell’ managed to get the details of the case across in an interesting and informative manner, even if it didn’t delve much deeper than surface level.
‘Richard Jewell’ is the latest movie in Clint Eastwood’s recent collection of films about ordinary Americans who struggle with the aftermath of a heroic action (for one reason or another) and I thought it was a very entertaining film about this incident.
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Olivia Wilde, Jon Hamm, Nina Arianda, Ian Gomez and Dylan Kussman