Paul Walter Hauser as Richard Jewell
Sam Rockwell as Watson Bryant
Olivia Wilde as Kathy Scruggs
Jon Hamm as Tom Shaw
Kathy Bates as Bobi Jewell
Nina Arianda as Nadya
Ian Gomez as Agent Dan Bennet
Mike Pniewski as Brandon Hamm
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Richard Jewell is based on a true story.
In 1996, Richard Jewell was a security guard at the 1996 Olympics. While he dreamed of being a cop and was known to let his authority go to his head, he was basically a nice guy, eager to do a good job.
While working on a concert at the Olympic Park, Richard noticed a suspicious backpack and called an alert. Although initially believed to be a false alarm, police quickly realized that the threat was real by finding a bomb inside. When Richard and the officers cleared the area, the bomb exploded and killed a bystander, injuring many others. Richard was hailed as a hero.
With few indications, however, the FBI soon turned its attention to Jewell himself as a suspect. And when journalist Kathy Scruggs got a hint that Jewell was a suspect, the rest of the media turned to Jewell. With his world crumbling fast, Richard called an old friend and lawyer Watson Bryant to help him. Together they begin a struggle for life against the two most powerful US forces – the government and the media.
While I was basically familiar with the story of Richard Jewell, I found this movie completely captivating. He revealed new details that I was unfamiliar with and my 15-year-old son, who became a history buff, started asking all sorts of questions about the Olympic Park bombing. And as the story unfolds, it's amazing to see someone's life unfairly destroyed by the FBI and the media from the perspective of the victim. In today's age of Twitter lynching crowds, leaks of government officials, and media trials, Richard Jewell is a timely warning tale for those in positions of power.
Paul Walter Hauser has an outstanding performance as Richard Jewell. He can make Richard look simple but smart at the same time. He makes him look selfish but understanding. It makes you annoyingly annoying to colleagues, but the guy you would probably like to take care of yourself. It's a complex role, but Hauser ends up making Richard a guy you hope to win in the end. And when he utters his final great speech, it is a memorable accusation from his persecutors. Hauser will justifiably be observed during the awards season for this performance.
Sam Rockwell is equally memorable as Watson Bryant, Jewell's lawyer. Bryant is a hot head, a talkative, profane and anti-government. However, he's also the kind of guy you want to fight for when the world comes after you. If half of what is portrayed in the movie is accurate, Jewell was very lucky to have Bryant by his side. Rockwell's performance turns out to be one of the best "good guy advocate" roles seen on the big screen.
Also notable are Kathy Bates as Bobi Jewell, Richard's mother, and Nina Arianda as Nadya, Bryant's assistant. Bates is also a victim in this story. As your son's reputation is slowly destroyed by the media and his home is looted by the FBI, his spirit becomes totally destroyed. Bates does a great job of portraying this regret. Arianda is also notable as Nadya, the character who pushes Bryant to take the case.
I believe a great movie makes you think about it days after the screening. Richard Jewell is one of those movies. The next time the media goes after someone, it will definitely be at the forefront of my mind. It certainly shows why our country has a "innocent until proven otherwise" policy.
What didn't work out:
I can't speak with the precision of Richard Jewell and I'm sure it will be a great discussion topic when it comes out. But there are some aspects that I have to question. Olivia Wilde's role as Kathy Scruggs seems quite exaggerated. From the moment she appears on screen, she immediately appears as unlikely and the villain of the story. She is profane, unethical and snobbish. Of course we shouldn't like her, but it seems exaggerated. The same goes for Jon Hamm as Tom Shaw. His acting as overly zealous FBI agent is good, but the movie seems to make great efforts to make him the other villain. But for a media movie not to clarify the facts, it's imperative that they accurately interpret the real-life people in this movie and I'm not 100% sure if they did.
I also like when movies about real life people show scenes of their subjects in the end. Richard Jewell didn't do that. This goes straight to the credits. It's a summary, but something I'd like to have seen to add to the authenticity of the movie.
The bottom line:
If you like historical dramas or stories about unknown heroes, check out Richard Jewell. I also think this is the best Clint Eastwood movie in a while. At the very least, it is a valuable warning story for any aspiring journalist or law enforcement officer.
Richard Jewell opens Friday, December 13th!