by Charles Kirkland Jr.
Paul Walter Hauser stars in the unfortunate telling of the unfortunate story of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing in Clint Eastwood’s biopic, Richard Jewell.
All Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) ever wanted to be is a law enforcement officer. From his humble beginnings working campus security to being a security officer at the Atlanta Olympics, Jewell (and his mother Bobi) has considered himself to be a member of the law enforcement community even when his zeal was mistaken. When stumbles
across a bomb in Centennial Park and he is initially lauded as a hero, Richard thinks that he has achieved his goal. Unfortunately, he could not be further from the truth.
Based on the Vogue magazine article written by Marie Brenner, the screenplay for Richard Jewell is crafted by Billy Ray (Flightplan, Captain Phillips, The Hunger Games). The legendary and controversial Clint Eastwood directs the film. It stars Hauser, Jon Hamm as FBI agent Tom Shaw, Sam Rockwell as Jewell’s lawyer Watson Bryant, Olivia Wilde as Kathy Scruggs and Kathy Bates as Bobi Jewell, Richard’s mom.
Simply put, this film is Eastwood’s best work since Gran Torino. Eastwood laboriously and painstakingly constructs the character of Richard Jewell from start to finish. His vision is consistent and complete and unflinching in his subtle attack upon not just the FBI but the media as well. Eastwood’s trademark seems to be to focus upon the subtleties and tenderness in a story and connect the audience. He excels in his work in this film.
Paul Walter Hauser (I, Tonya, BlackkKlansman) is a breakout star. Hauser’s performance is the center of the film from which all else emanates. He shows an incredible amount of depth of emotion and intricacy as he portrays the aggravating, Barney Fife-like mixture of infantile dedication to duty and gullibility that Jewell possesses. Hauser makes the audience believe that Jewell just does not have the ability to understand what is happening to him.
Sam Rockwell plays well as the antithesis to the Hamm’s over-reaching FBI agent but Kathy Bates as Bobi Jewell is the performer who openly expresses the anger and confusion that Hauser’s Richard clearly feels but is unable to access.
The story of Richard Jewell may be long forgotten since his death but it has become a primer for how not to do an investigation. Jewell was the subject of intense scrutiny over the bombing of Centennial Park in 1996. He was vilified in the press and some would say that he never truly recovered from it.
Rated R for language including some sexual references and brief bloody images, Richard Jewell is a gripping and emotionally powerful movie. It is a great return to excellence for Clint Eastwood who some may have thought was losing his vision. Jewell is not Unforgiven but thankfully it sure isn’t The Mule.