Hollywood legend almost isn’t enough to describe Clint Eastwood. He is the perfect example of someone who’s given their life to the art of movie-making. And he’s not perfect, “The 15:17 to Paris” proved that.
To put it nicely that particular endeavour was a nonsensical mess, but he followed it up with the dubiously charming film “The Mule” which saved him some face. Now he reminds just how good he really is by curtailing last decade with his best effort in many years.
Richard Jewell tells the true story of the man who inspired the title. Richard (Paul Walter Hauser) was a security guard based in Centennial Park on July 26, 1996, during the Atlanta Olympics. He was the very security guard who found the bomb which went off in the park that day and saved countless lives by ensuring as many people as possible were out of harm’s way before it went off. Without a doubt, Richard was a hero. A hero America ridiculed when the FBI leaked to a journalist that he was the prime suspect in the hunt for the terrorist.
The film follows both the event itself and the fruitless and frankly pathetic investigation that followed. With the relationship between Richard, his mother Bobi (Kathy Bates) and his lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) being the focal point. Throughout they combat the naïve duo of FBI investigator Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) and journalist Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde).
All the while Richard Jewell becomes the punchline to a nation’s jokes, a nation unwittingly insulting someone who was only doing his job and saving people in the process.
There is a lot to love and respect about this film, but there is one breathtaking aspect that rises above all others, the performance of Paul Walter Hauser in the title role. He starts off simmering as the goofy and frankly strange man Jewell was and manages to evolve that into a commanding and downright engrossing depiction of a man who refuses to be anyone he’s not. It becomes staggeringly clear he will do whatever he can to get his situation resolved and go back to living life the way he always did. This performance shows Hauser is so much more than the hilarity inducing roles in “I, Tonya” and “BlackKklansmen” he’s a Hollywood leading man with all the potential to take the stage during any future awards season as a winner.
Sam Rockwell and the Oscar-nominated Kathy Bates are also spectacular and serve to highlight the intense toll something like this takes on people. Bobi Jewell is a particularly endearing character, she loves her son with every fibre of her being, and to label her reaction to the scandal as utter devastation would be an understatement. That’s what makes this an essential film, a film that had to be made. Clint Eastwood has a knack for highlighting the stories of hero’s who don’t or didn’t get their due while they were alive, and Richard Jewell is the epitome of that.
Not only did he not get his due, but he was also torn apart by the media when he had done nothing wrong, this film highlights that and spreads the truth to the world one last time.
Eastwood doesn’t spare much time for certain complexities that amount to the truth here, but the basics are spot on, and when it comes down to it, I am totally fine with that. Yes, the depiction of Scruggs is harsh, and at times blatantly untrue, but she still wrote the articles she wrote, and they were horrible and wrong; history must not forget that, even if she is unfairly treated in this film. The FBI also come off as utterly incompetent, but all things considered, this wasn’t their finest hour, and they didn’t deserve anything more than they got from this film.
Paul Walter Hauser’s powerhouse performance firms this tale of an American hero robbed of his glory as one of Clint Eastwood’s most exceptional efforts from the last decade.
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