When does a film stop being entertainment and start becoming political manipulation? That's the question running around in my head after seeing Clint Eastwood's new film Richard Jewell. There's no doubt that Mr. Eastwood is a skilled Director. There is a vast library of fine films to prove it. However, this film feels quickly made, rushed to market, and purposefully biased.
I question his motives for making this film. Why did he choose to tell this particular story at this particular time? Could his own political leanings have played a big part in his choice to exploit Richard Jewell's story. It feels to me like an attempt to ferment further distrust in the FBI and the Media at moment when our country is in political turmoil.
This film is a direct and firm indictment of both the FBI and the Media, it even creates a situation wherein one of the characters begs the President to intervene. Eastwood himself, in the trailer for the film, goes so far as to say "The world will know…the TRUTH!" Whose truth? What Truth? I'd like to know, because the film is currently under fire for both its depiction of Journalist Kathy Scurggs and its portrayal of the FBI agents involved as villainous caricatures.
Here's The Storyline…
Richard Jewell (Hausner), an overweight, and zealous security guard at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, is assigned to Centennial Park during the concert series. Through a series of quick events he finds and alerts the police to an abandoned backpack under a bench, which turns out to be a large pipe bomb. His quick thinking and help clearing the area saved many lives as the bomb went off.
However, within days of being hailed as a Hero, Richard becomes the FBI's number one suspect, not because of any proof, but because he fits the profile of a "Lone Bomber". In an instant his life is ripped apart when Atlanta Journal-Constitution Reporter Kathy Scurggs (Wilde), acting on a tip from her lover, FBI agent Tom Shaw (Hamm), breaks the story that Jewell is under suspicion.
Jewell then reaches out to attorney Watson Bryant (Rockwell) who tries dramatically to prove his client innocent while struggling to keep him from trusting the very people trying to destroy him
The film centers on the performance of Paul Walter Hausner as Jewell, and he does a terrific job with the role, never once losing his wide-eyed wannabe police officer attitude. I also liked how Kathy Bates played Richard's poor suffering mother and Rockwell was great as usual as the attorney. However, Hamm who is usually a welcomed performer, phoned in his performance, while Wilde, made out to be the bad guy in all this, did the best she could with the material she was given to work with.
My take…"Richard Jewell" is a large pill to swallow with its dubious message. In the hands of a director with less political bias and a more objective viewpoint the film would probably have been much better. Wait until it hits your home screen to see it.
Richard Jewell is Rated R for language including some sexual references, and brief bloody images. Running Time: 129 min.