RICHARD JEWELL gets 7/10 Punished hero

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Starring Paul Walter Hauser, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates


If you’re in the mood for something that’ll make your blood boil, Richard Jewell will get that job done. This particular true story of good versus evil and truth versus injustice is only a slightly pampered-up account of the real-life events that plagued the eponymous Richard Jewell, a hero who was punished for his good deed.

Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) is an unassuming, slightly naive, but dedicated security officer, who would otherwise be right in the background if this film weren’t about his story – and his story here is one of the cruellest ironies in recent memory. Jewell is hounded as the prime suspect of the 1996 terrorist bombing in Atlanta Olympics, despite the fact he was the one who discovered the bomb and instructed the large crowd away from it, saving lives.

The conniving nature of the FBI and media are represented by Agent Shaw (Jon Hamm) and Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), respectively. They act like aggressive bullies against Jewell, his mother Bobi (Kathy Bates), and his lawyer Watson (Sam Rockwell), though the film toys with how these characters evolve along with the case (if they even evolve at all).

Hauser has only been seen in bit parts in the likes of I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman, but with his first leading role here, he shows he’s absolutely got the chops to gracefully carry a film, commanding the lead role with ease. His Richard Jewell is a man of utter humility but shows signs of the cracks in his emotional stoicism where a deep, dark anger over his situation is lurking.

More evidently angrier is Bates’ Bobi, who carries a similar sense of modesty and even naivety, but becomes increasingly more devastated than her son is. This Oscar-nominated performance has its Oscar-bait moment, with Bates actually delivering a tear-stained speech about her son’s injustice, but the better scenes of her anguish are at how much the FBI encroaches on their lives and how little they care.

Directed in a straight-forward manner by the prolific Clint Eastwood, he doesn’t mine a great deal of cinematic prowess through this story, aside from the incredibly tense scene of the bombing itself. The film mostly eschews dramatic grandstanding in favour of a more realistic approach that reveals the surprising transparency of Jewell as his gullibility is tested by Shaw. As simply well crafted as this film is, there’s not much here to suggest it’s a feel-good film.


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