Directed by Clint Eastwood and based on true events, “Richard Jewell” is a story of what happens when what is reported as fact obscures the truth. “There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have thirty minutes.” The world is first introduced to Richard Jewell as the security guard who reports finding the device at the 1996 Atlanta bombing—his report making him a hero whose swift actions save countless lives. But within days, the law enforcement wannabe becomes the FBI’s number one suspect, vilified by press and public alike, his life ripped apart. Reaching out to independent, anti-establishment attorney Watson Bryant, Jewell staunchly professes his innocence. But Bryant finds he is out of his depth as he fights the combined powers of the FBI, GBI and APD to clear his client’s name, while keeping Richard from trusting the very people trying to destroy him.
What We Thought:
Paul Walter Hauser gives a breakout performance in Richard Jewell. Kathy Bates has received a Golden Globes Best Supporting Actress nomination and you can never, ever go wrong with Sam Rockwell, but it’s Hauser’s performance as the hero turned suspect Richard Jewell people will be talking about down the road.
Based on the 1996 Olympic park bombing in Atlanta, Hauser’s Jewell worked security at the event. He always wanted to work in law enforcement, but had been let go from previous jobs in security and the like. As the man who first saw the suspicious package and helped save hundreds of lives, Jewell was seen as a hero until the FBI and media made him the prime suspect. Seeing him as a loner with previous troubles, Jewell’s life was torn apart and he was crucified in the media all without a single drop of evidence besides profiling.
This is based on a true story so you probably know the ending, but for those who don’t, I won’t spoil anything. Shockingly there were people at the screening who didn’t, heck they didn’t even know there was a bomb so there are lots of ignorant people out there I guess. Even knowing how it will end (or assuming how it will end), the performances and film still very much hold your attention. Bates and Rockwell give fantastic supporting performances which showcase Hauser even more. His Jewell is lovable and simply wants to help. Even as the main suspect in a bombing, he volunteers to help anyway he can. He doesn’t realize the people he trusts aren’t looking out for him and simply want to take him down. It’s that heart and tenderness that Hauser brings that humanizes Jewell into the perfect everyday hero. You watch him volunteer information and say things because he thinks he’s doing the right thing. He was a man of conviction and that trust and belief in doing what is right was almost his downfall.
The events of the Atlanta bombing took place 23 years ago and I wish I could say things have gotten better since then. Watching Richard Jewell, we are reminded that news people want to be first and not necessarily right. Unfortunately today’s world is just as bad. Richard Jewell should be a reminder that facts and accuracy should be what the news provide, but pop on CNN, social media or anything today and you’ll see things haven’t changed. Director Clint Eastwood shows us there are still heroes and people who believe in doing the right thing, but also shows us that’s not what makes the news cycle. Hauser is a revelation and the film feels just as timely today as the events did 20 plus years ago. Definitely a film I’ll revisit in time.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Screenplay by Billy Ray based on the Vanity Fair article “American Nightmare – The Ballad of Richard Jewell” by Marie Brenner
Producers: Clint Eastwood, Tim Moore, Jessica Meier, Kevin Misher, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson, Jonah Hill
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde and Paul Walter Hauser