Eastwood's Richard Jewell a Captivating Look at a Moment in History

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Richard Jewell

Clint Eastwood's RICHARD JEWELL is a compelling look at the actual events of 1996 and the bombing that took place at the Olympic Games in Atlanta Georgia.

When an AT&T security guard named Richard Jewell spotted a suspicious backpack, he insists police investigate it. This was a pre-9/11 world, where people weren't as hyper-aware of abandoned knapsacks and packages. Inside the pack were three very large pipe bombs, and the evacuation of the area is ordered. When the bomb went off, 111 people were injured, and Alice Hawthorne (44, Albany, Georgia) and Melih Uzunyol (40, Turkey) lost their lives. But the devastation could have been much worse. By all rights, Richard Jewel was a hero.

Until the FBI and the media decided he wasn't, and began profiling him as the person who planted the bomb in order to set himself up to look like a hero.

RICHARD JEWELL tells the story of a rather simplistic man with black-and-white ideals, played here by Paul Walter Hauser. We get to see Jewell's life before the events in Centennial Park, including the mistakes he makes in his careers that became the basis of the smears used against him later.

Sam Rockwell plays Watson Bryant, the attorney Jewell hires first to represent the book deal he is offered, and then as his personal defense when the investigation turns against him. Rockwell has always been an outstanding actor, but he truly outdoes himself here in this role, becoming the lawyer any man would want in his corner.

The antagonists of the tale then become law enforcement and the press, represented here by Agent Shaw (Jon Hamm) and reporter Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), who collaborate and share information while having quid pro quo relations with each other. Shaw is mostly by-the-book, while Scruggs is portrayed as being ever-horny for a headline, even before she breaks the news (from a leak from Shaw) that the government was looking at Jewell as a suspect.

The tale, while true and riveting, isn't without its moments of comedy. Bryant has a hard time getting Jewell to recognize his right to remain silent, because Jewell sees the agents as fellow law enforcement and wants to respect them. He also has a pretty daunting collection of guns which he brings out when Bryant confronts him to reveal any other "weird things" that may cause them problems in the case. And underlying all the dramatic news, we see the Jewell family -- Richard and his mother, Bobi (Kathy Bates) -- form a bond of friendship with Bryant and his assistant (and future wife) Nadya (Nina Arlanda).

Reminescent of FORREST GUMP, this film should have a greater impact because of its factual basis, and for the object lesson it imparts on how easily the system can target one man. Recommended viewing.

 

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0