In Brief: Clint Eastwood has crafted a jewel of a movie
Richard Jewell is the story of the man who found a bomb loaded into a backpack at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. At first Jewell was hailed as a hero, a selfless security guard whose quick thinking saved hundreds of lives.
Then Jewell went from being hero to goat and was the focus on the FBI’s investigation as to who planted the bomb.
I’m going to quickly address the controversy about reporter Kathy Scruggs who broke the story about the FBI investigating Jewell. The movie contends Scruggs may have slept with an FBI agent and other law enforcement personnel to obtain the information that Jewell was a suspect in the case.
Her newspaper and colleagues deny that behavior.
Scruggs is the face of the media, and she and FBI agent Tom Shaw are the film’s villains. Their characters are at the heart what director Clint Eastwood is trying to say and at the heart of screenwriter Billy Ray’s story. Media has such power. Get the facts wrong, or jump to a conclusion too quickly, and that power can destroy a person’s life in an instant.
That’s what happened to Jewell.
Richard Jewell subtly says had Shaw — if he was the person who leaked the info to Scruggs — kept it to himself, then Jewell and his mom might not have gone through a few weeks in hell. Or if Scruggs would have kept the information to herself until a more thorough investigation was conducted, it would have led to the same result.
As a critic, and as someone who has worked in or around newspapers and broadcast newsrooms all my life, the first thought that comes to mind is the reporter’s job is to report. People knew the FBI was looking at someone. Jewell’s name would have eventually surfaced. And is it her fault that Shaw told her? She was doing her job. He failed at his.
That’s my opinion. Yours might be the same or different. Enough said. Let’s look at Eastwood’s movie.
As always he gets incredible performances out of a stellar cast. The best work is from Paul Walter Hauser (I, Tanya) who plays Jewell. He does Jewell’s rent-a-cop personality perfectly. Jewell fancied himself as law enforcement material and in his eagerness to help authorities, managed to fit the profile of the kind of person who creates destructive devices like bombs to draw attention to themselves.
To get you there and into Jewell’s head, Hauser shambles and shuffles through Ray’s (Terminator: Dark Fate, Gemini Man) script as the perfect boob. He’s a smart guy and at the same time, probably the dumbest person in the room.
It’s — as I said earlier — perfect.
He gets excellent support from Sam Rockwell who makes every movie he’s in better than it ought to be and Olivia Wilde, Jon Hamm and Kathy Bates. Rockwell does his attorney, Wilde plays Scruggs and Hamm is Shaw. Bates received the most notice and got a Golden Globe nomination for playing Jewell’s mother.
Give Eastwood an excellent script — the Scruggs controversy aside — and he has few storytelling equals. That’s the case here. As he does with all of his movies, Eastwood plows straight ahead from A to B to C and doesn’t dawdle. An even bigger plus is his ability to give multiple dimensions to even the shallowest of the people in his story.
That’s the case here.
His last two movies, 15:17 to Paris and The Mule were awful. Many of us thought Eastwood’s best moving-making days were behind him. While it’s not the best movie of the year or his best effort, Richard Jewell is a good movie and is the best Eastwood has been in years.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Jon Hamm, Kathy Bates, Nina Arianda
Rated R for mature themes, language and violence. Few directors are better storytellers than Clint Eastwood and Richard Jewell’s story is riveting. Give this a 4 on the Friday Flicks with Gary 0 to 5 scale.
Click here for theaters and show times.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.