Clint Eastwood’s latest film centers on the man who saved lives during the Centennial Park Bombing.
During the 1996 Summer Olympics, Richard Jewell worked as a security guard at Centennial Park. Jewell discovered a suspicious backpack that he brought to the attention of police on site. Jewell and the police worked to move civilians away from the site of the bomb before it went off. The bomb caused the death of two people and injured 111 others. At first Jewell was regarded as a hero, but three days after the event the FBI made him their lead suspect, and immediately the FBI and the media came down on Jewell with an iron fist. The FBI would eventually move away from Jewell and find the real bomber 7 years after their investigation ended.
The new film, Richard Jewell, directed by Clint Eastwood- looks at the man falsely accused of the bombing. Jewell, played by Paul Walter Hauser (I, Tonya), yearned to be a member of law enforcement, with dreams of one day being an FBI agent. After many false starts, Jewell gets a security job for the Olympics, which leads to the events surrounding the investigation. Throughout the film, Jewell and his mother Bobi (Kathy Bates), are often stuck inside their home, unable to leave due to the incessant hounding of the media and the FBI. Their only saving grace in the ordeal being Richard’s lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell).
The film is slow but steady, taking its time with the characters to let you fully grasp who Jewell was and how the events all played out. It lingers at times, but for good reason. There’s the ability to look at Jewell as a fool, and as someone who is too stupid to realize how much trouble he could be in. But as we get more time with the character we see that he’s someone who is firm in his ideals and his beliefs. This is a man who truly believed that protecting people and taking on a role in the government and law enforcement, were noble deeds. Yet when he finally gets the chance to be immersed in that world he realizes that it’s not always beautiful and noble.
The film packs some fantastic performances by Hauser, Rockwell, Bates, and John Hamm as Tom Shaw, the FBI Agent leading the charge against Richard. But the performances are the only real thing for the film to hold onto. This isn’t a film that wants to say anything important. It doesn’t completely condemn the FBI or the media for their actions. It doesn’t give us reason to truly love anyone involved. It gives us the details of the events that happened, and says, “doesn’t that kinda suck.”
The film is interesting, and again, packs in some fantastic performances from the ensemble. But it’s not the type of film that you’ll care much for when you walk away. It’s something that reminds us of how naïve and cruel we can be, but doesn’t ask us or tell us what to do with that reminder. While some films will go over events of the past and pose a question to the audience or try to teach a lesson, Richard Jewell simply say, “here’s this for ya, hope you like it.” Which is a bit disappointing given the talent surrounding the film.
Richard Jewell is currently playing in theaters.