Rating: ★★★ 1/2
I wasn’t aware of Richard Jewell’s story until I saw a trailer for Clint Eastwood’s film. But the fact it was based on reality made it even more compelling.
On July 27th 1996, American security guard Richard Jewell saved thousands of lives after a pipe bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta. But his heroic act ended up seeing him vilified by the press and the FBI.
Eastwood’s film tells the story of Richard Jewell’s false implication, and why he ended up being named as a person of interest. Paul Walter Hauser stars as Jewell, and the role is his breakout performance.
Jewell is obsessed with law and order and dreams of being in law enforcement, but multiple complaints saw him fired from his first attempt at reaching this goal. He then ends up being a security guard for the 1996 Olympic Games.
I really enjoyed Hauser’s portrayal of our titular character, especially when it came down to his blind faith in law enforcement. Even when the FBI want him behind bars, he still sees himself as “one of them”.
This frustrating aspect of Jewell’s personality delivers some laughs, as well as making the audience feel pity for him. He doesn’t do himself many favours, which is where Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) comes in.
Bryant becomes Jewell’s lawyer, and I was particularly enamoured by Rockwell’s performance. His blunt, no-nonsense personality is much needed on this case to try and knock some sense into a man reluctant to stand up to law enforcement.
With more media outlets picking up the news that Richard Jewell could be a false hero, and instead the man responsible for the horrific bombing, it soon becomes a race against time for Bryant and his client.
FBI Agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) is the key enemy here, obsessed with bringing Richard Jewell to justice and claiming he’s “guilty as hell”. As a villain figure, Hamm is excellent, and I loved his take on a shady agent who would stop at nothing to be proven right.
Jewell’s mother Barbara (Kathy Bates) didn’t appear as much as I was expecting, but one scene in particular made me burst into tears in the cinema. She certainly delivered a powerful performance with the time she had on-screen.
However, I did find myself being critical of Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), whose portrayal has come under fire by many. We’re supposed to hate her, but unfortunately it takes it one step too far and taints the character for the sake of a scene that feels insignificant.
For me, the scene could have been written out and the story would have still been compelling, so I’m disappointed this was added to her character. It didn’t seem to serve a purpose beyond being more controversial.
Richard Jewell is a slow burner, and a compelling watch for those who like intense crime dramas that show what actually goes on behind the scenes. Truthfully law enforcement isn’t always all guns blazing, it can be pretty tedious.
But that doesn’t mean it’s boring to watch, and I found myself mostly engaged in the case. I wanted, needed, justice to be served and I was frustrated it took so long to get there.
I did enjoy the film, but I also wish that the Kathy on-screen had been more accurate to the real person, who was still a central part of the case without the need for further sensationalism. This was hard for me to stomach unfortunately.
Overall, I would recommend the film for those interested in the case, and there were definitely some stand out performances and emotional scenes to keep the story going until the case is finally closed. But don’t expect it to be 100% historically accurate.