Richard Jewell – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde
In cinemas January 31st
Since the events in this fact based drama happened before the advent of social media it is likely that there are many who don’t remember this story set around the events of a bomb explosion at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. A local man, Richard Jewell, was working as a security guard in the city’s Centennial Park area when he spotted a suspicious looking package under a bench. Thanks to him reporting it security were able to clear most of the area before it detonated saving many lives and Jewell was hailed as a hero. That is until the FBI decided he fit the profile for perpetrators of similar crimes and overnight he became public enemy number one. It is a gripping story that shows how no good deed goes unpunished but also a complex tale with many elements that could have ravelled out of control in the hands of some directors.
Jewell is played here by Hauser (who has rightly won plaudits for his performance). In real life Jewell had the good fortune to be acquainted with a lawyer called Watson Bryant (Rockwell) who fought his corner and became a lifelong friend. Much of the movie examines the dynamic between the men and the two actors bounce off each other brilliantly. Also excellent is Kathy Bates as Richard’s overprotective mother who finds herself caught in the middle of a media circus. Overall, this movie is brilliantly cast.
It is impossible not to feel for the genial Richard as he is put through the mill by the authorities. It is shocking how easily they turned their gaze towards him and it is impossible not to be shocked by it.
To be fair Eastwood has somewhat simplified events. Some characters – such as Hamm’s FBI agent Tom Shaw – are actually amalgamations of several characters. And Jewell actually had a team of lawyers and not just Bryant although that obviously doesn’t make for as intimate a relationship on screen. There has also been some controversy over the depiction of journalist Kathy Scruggs (Wilde) who is seen here offering to trade sex for a story – something that has been vehemently denied by the publication. Suffice to say a lot of people were rather upset by that. Despite this he has crafted a well paced and moving film that will have you running the gamut of emotions.
Entertaining probably isn’t the right word for this – it’s hard to be entertained by another human being so mistreated. But it is extremely thought provoking and engaging. Not the cheeriest night you will ever have at the cinema but definitely worth a watch.