Richard Jewell is directed by Clint Eastwood. The film stars Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, and Olivia Wilde.
At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, security guard Richard Jewell spots a suspicious package, reporting it to the authorities. The suspicious package is an explosive device, and while it does explode, Jewell’s efforts to report the package to the authorities are instrumental in saving lives. Before long, he’s hailed as a hero, but it isn’t long before the FBI begins investigating him as an actual bomber suspect. It’s up to Jewell and an old lawyer friend he once worked for to clear his name.
Any time Clint Eastwood makes a movie, I’m automatically interested. He’s that rare man who’s comfortable on both sides of the camera (though he’s strictly the director here and not an actor), and his body of work speaks for itself. Here, Mr. Eastwood tries to shed light on a little-known hero who was wrongly vilified by the media and unjustly investigated by the FBI despite the positive results of his actions. It’s a gripping and dramatic true story, but not one which is above more lighthearted and humorous moments as well.
Where the film shines brightest is its leading man, Paul Walter Hauser, portraying the titular hero. Hauser’s Jewell is not a shining star by any means. He’s a 30-something man who lives with his mother, is overweight and out of shape, and has failed at every job he’s ever been given, often letting authority go to his head. Despite his bumbling nature, he’s quite likable and friendly, and Hauser’s portrayal makes the experience complete. Seeing him interact with everyone from his mother and lawyer to the law enforcement professionals and FBI agents looking to hang him is the highlight of the movie.
The supporting cast shines just as brightly. The always charismatic and entertaining Sam Rockwell portrays Jewell’s lawyer, the one man Jewell seems to trust for all his legal affairs. The relationship between the two is a delight, as these two have perfect chemistry with one another. Also impressive is the underrated-as-hell Kathy Bates, portraying Jewell’s mother, who’s life is turned upside down when she sees his son go from being hailed as a hero to investigated by the authorities. Minor but no less interesting parts include Olivia Wilde as an ambitious journalist willing to do anything to get a story to get herself ahead in life, and Jon Hamm as the sleazy FBI agent willing to give her one.
The film goes on for over two hours, but it never manages to feel preachy or like a tearjerker. The movie also gets credit for not painting the FBI out to be heroes, but rather villains of sorts who throw a man’s life into disarray, despite the fact he was being hailed as a hero only a short time ago. The movie also finds time for more humorous moments despite the seriousness of its content, which makes the whole package all the more appealing. At no point does the movie feel boring or like it’s running out of steam. It’s a fantastic store of a true American hero, brought to life by the always reliable Clint Eastwood, himself a hero of cinema.
Richard Jewell is a revelation. Clint Eastwood is at the top of his game directing this story, while an all-star cast including Paul Walter Hauser at the forefront, with Oscar-worthy performances from Bates and Rockwell, further adding to the overall package. Absolute highest recommendations, and hoping this one gets some much-deserved recognition at the Academy Awards!
Rating: Four stars out of four.
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