Clint Eastwood is a director that is hard to pin down. Right when you think his prowess has withered a bit too much, he fires off and makes Richard Jewell.
Richard Jewell is a film about heroism, patriotism, and the all mighty media. Richard (Paul Walter Hauser) is a somewhat ne’er-do-well security guard who has stumbled and bumbled his way into a gig at the 96 Olympics. He takes himself way too serious and is always abusing his perceived power while wielding just about any kind of badge he can get his hands on. It is during this job at the Olympics that his over the top and strict adherence to the rules actually comes in handy when he notices a suspicious package. Since no one takes him serious it is some time before the bag is inspected and a bomb is found, allowing the police to start evacuating. The bomb goes off and the legend that is Richard Jewell is born. The FBI, led by the crack team of Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) and Dan Bennet (Ian Gomez) are led to investigating Jewell thanks to a tip from an old boss that thought he fit the profile. The ferocious and mean spirited reporter Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) is tipped off of their interest in Jewell as a suspect and she begins to write a news story and it’s off to the races.
The film pulls no punches in regards to the media’s role in bringing all the undue attention onto Jewell and his family. The baseless accusations are printed and a man’s life descends into hell because of it. The blame is placed squarely on the media’s shoulders, without so much public pressure the FBI would not have had to be so quick point the finger and get their guy.
Jewell turns to an old acquaintance,Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) for help, the only person he knows who is a lawyer. The ensuing legal action and investigation are riveting to watch unfold and you do not feel the 2+ hour runtime at all.
Pivotal to the story is Jewell’s mother, Bobi Jewell (Kathy Bates). She is Jewell’s anchor and reality check. Bates gives a convincing performance as a mother coping with extreme circumstances. It is clear that life has been hard for her and her son, it really is heartbreaking to see her crushed by all the negative attention.
The acting in this film is absolutely fantastic. The adapted script by Billy Ray is sharp and to the point. Clint Eastwood has brought this character to life, and gave justice to his story and Jewell’s family. Rockwell is a force and he is an absolute pleasure to watch on screen. The duo of of him and Hauser is at times, stunning. They are doing as well of acting as you will see this year, and the fact that they are not getting the awards recognition they deserve is mind boggling. Maybe it’s time for the conversation of expanding the acting category to include up to 7 nominees, so that in years like this, especially for Hauser, these actors can get the recognition they deserve.