Richard Jewell

Film, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(1user review)
Richard Jewell
Photo: Claire Folger/Warner Bros.

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

A real-life wrong-man story works best when it leans into the plight of its falsely accused hero, not when it's making accusations of its own

Clint Eastwood has long been attracted to everyday heroes burdened by institutional power (you can see it as far back as Dirty Harry). Continuing this libertarian streak, the director’s latest honors Richard Jewell, the security guard who cleared most of a crowd when he discovered fatal explosives at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. For this act, he saw his life turned into a living hell when the FBI – which he idolised – mistakenly targeted him as the perpetrator. Resurrecting his sturdy cinematic prose after recent fiascos like The 15:17 to Paris, Eastwood competently dramatises the underdog’s true tale with a patient, straightforward style akin to Sully and Changeling, but he falls short on nuance.

Worlds removed from his thuggish bodyguard in I, Tonya, the terrific Paul Walter Hauser disappears into the role of the affable, gun-hoarding ex-cop. Working a series of gigs until a crucial one places him at the pivotal Centennial Olympic Park, his amicably awkward Jewell flaunts an overkill sense of duty that annoys almost everyone except his proud, doting mother (a poignant Kathy Bates, delivering a lived-in performance that swells in the final act). Tipped off by an inept FBI agent (Jon Hamm), an opportunistic reporter (Olivia Wilde) kicks off a media circus after publishing negative speculation on Jewell, who then hires Sam Rockwell’s quixotic lawyer to clear his name. Gradually, Eastwood builds a heartwarming, familial camaraderie between client and attorney.

While it’s reasonable to criticise the press and law enforcement in these events, Billy Ray’s script (drawing on a 1997 Vanity Fair article by Marie Brenner) relishes the opportunity irresponsibly, especially in its mean and unflattering portrayal of Wilde’s journalist as a crazy-eyed scrounger who trades sex for a scoop (an unverified detail). Elsewhere, Eastwood plays to his strengths better, orchestrating clean set-pieces of closely observed details in suffocating living rooms and dynamic concert arenas alike, while maintaining a sombre mood throughout. (The vibe is well supported by an expressive, piano-heavy score by Arturo Sandoval.) Richard Jewell’s greatest feat is the generous emphasis it places on its Forrest Gumpian do-gooder’s complex sense of humanity; if only there were more of that to spread around to the other characters.

By: Tomris Laffly

Details

Release details

Rated:
M
Release date:
Thursday February 13 2020
Duration:
131 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
Clint Eastwood
Screenwriter:
Billy Ray
Cast:
Paul Walter Hauser
Sam Rockwell
Kathy Bates
Olivia Wilde
Jon Hamm

Users say (1)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

4 / 5

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1 person listening

The victim here is Richard Jewell not the female reporter. Basically Scruggs was writing lies on a daily basis at the Atlanta Journal. The man was systematically destroyed by the FBI and the media which probably led to his death. I have no mercy when one has to look at Murdoch Daily Telegraph in the UK, bugging murder victims phones for breaking news. The FBI and the Atlanta Journal did not want this film to happen. This is a top Eastwood movie and one of his best.