Richard Jewell

The Plot:

Atlanta 1996 finds the “Centennial Olympic Games” in full swing. Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) is part of the security staff and takes his job more seriously than most.

When Jewell finds a suspicious package on the grounds, he alerts authorities. It turns out to be the real deal.

The explosion kills two and injures over 100 people. As the FBI steps in, they follow a “False Hero” theory that those who often discover bombs are the ones who planted them.

Within a few days, Richard Jewell goes from hero to suspect.

As the FBI begins railroading Jewell, taking advantage of his respect for law enforcement, he hires Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell), a bulldog lawyer who took a liking to Jewell years ago.

Together, they will fight a government who is convinced of his guilt without any evidence and a media who hunts for a sensational story.

Kent’s Take:

“Richard Jewell” is an unsettling story of the abuse of the systems that are meant to protect us – the FBI and our medias.

Richard Jewel is a kind-hearted southern man who has longed to serve in law enforcement. Unfortunately, when the FBI focuses on Jewell as the prime suspect, they use his kindness and respect for them against him.

Writer Billy Ray deftly defines a fine line between the FBI’s responsibility to find the bombing culprit and its abuse of an innocent citizen. The FBI had every right to investigate Jewell, but when the facts didn’t point to him, they continued to pressure him.

Director Clint Eastwood skillfully creates an emotional story. Jewell is initially portrayed as a cop “wanna-be” and as a hanger-on as a security guard. Eastwood then perfectly transforms him into a hero by simply showing that he makes the right decisions for the right reasons. Teaching us that heroes are defined by hearts and heads, not necessarily brawn and bravery.

The cast is perfect with Hauser both looking like Jewell and becoming Jewell. Rockwell is always a treat to watch on screen. His Watson Bryant is a lovable rogue who sees something in Jewell that no one else does – his innocence.

“Richard Jewell” takes a man that is a diamond in the rough and transforms him into a real American hero.

Lynn’s Take:

A sad, regrettable story about a horrific false accusation of an Olympic attackand trial by media, “Richard Jewell” attempts to right a wrong about an ordinary Joe with an extraordinary sense of duty. Ultimately cleared but damaged forever, Jewell died at age 44. This film – sincere to a fault – depicts the story behind the headlines.

Taut and tense, this film is one of director Clint Eastwood’s finest. He’s a no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase kind of guy, and his point of view is never in doubt either. Based on a 1997 Vanity Fair magazine article, “American Nightmare: The Ballad of Rick Jewell,” by Marie Brenner, screenwriter Billy Ray, with compassion, dignity and some humor, shows us how it happened and the toll it took.

In a breakthrough performance, Paul Walter Hauser will break your heart as the title character. His achievement is remarkable here. You might have noticed him as memorable dim-bulb characters in “I, Tonya” and “BlacKkKlansman,” but you will remember him here as a chubby nondescript guy thrust into the harsh glare of the media spotlight.

The supporting cast is quite strong, with Sam Rockwell terrific as Watson Bryant, an anti-establishment lawyer, and Jewell’s staunchest defender, and Kathy Bates as his supportive mom Bobi. In unflattering roles, Jon Hamm plays an FBI agent, Tom Shaw, and Olivia Wilde is a reporter, who leads the presumed guilty feeding frenzy.

With subject matter this compelling, “Richard Jewell” swirls complex questions and is led by a convincing cast.