Richard Jewell review: A tense, emotional true life drama
Mike Williams | On 29, Apr 2020
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Paul Walter Hauser, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Jon Hamm, Kathy Bates, Nina Arianda
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As far as Clint Eastwood’s directorial efforts go, the 89-year old’s built an eclectic and consistent resumé with Unforgiven, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Changeling, and 2018’s The Mule scattered throughout his iconic career. Richard Jewell feels at home alongside them, telling the true story of a security guard accused of planting the bomb he finds while on duty at the 1996 Olympic Games.
Paul Walter Hauser, a relatively unknown character actor, assumes the lead in this serious drama, which depicts the often ruthless intent and dangerous manipulation of public perspective the media can instil. Having introduced us to Richard, a somewhat unorthodox loner who appears a little too keen to uphold his image of the law on a college campus, the often meek, mild-mannered patriot finds himself in the company of lawyer and friend Watson Bryant (played memorably by Sam Rockwell) in his next job.
Rockwell’s grounded and unfiltered logic complements Hauser’s man-child naivety, and the pair form an unlikely double act that works satisfyingly in its poignant and comedic moments alike.
Beginning and ending strongly, there is a short period in Richard Jewell’s mid-section where it ever so slightly loses its way. But a masterful Eastwood quickly reins in what is a generally tight and tidy film.
The central story is sufficiently gripping on its own, offering startling insight into Jewell’s trial by media, as he maintains throughout this hellish ordeal that he was just doing his job. Eastwood forges a worthy support cast that includes Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, and the superb Kathy Bates as Jewell’s mother. She’s particularly the standout as Jewell’s protective yet vulnerable parent.
However, despite this being a true-to-life tale, Wilde’s reporter, the late Kathy Scruggs, is depicted unfavourably, implying she slept her way up the career ladder regardless of there being no evidence to suggest this happened. Aside from that controversy and the script’s artistic license, Richard Jewell is a tense, emotional and darkly amusing addition to Eastwood’s directing filmography, and certainly one that deserves your attention. The paranoia-infused two hours will leave you shaking with rage, scared for its lead character and somewhat relieved the media frenzy is over when those end credits finally roll.
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