Movie Review: Injustice and Redemption In Clint Eastwood’s ‘Richard Jewell’

Richard Jewell shines as one of Clint Eastwood’s better directed films with amazing performances and a well-paced story. It’s an eye-opening tale of one man’s quest to clear his name.

RELATED: When To Call Someone In Or Out In The Age Of Social Media

The rise in social media has made it easier for people to communicate with each other, but it has also led to an easier time for people to accuse and point fingers at one another.

The prevalence of fake news and call-out posts has made it possible for people to accuse someone of doing something bad, regardless if that may be true or not. Back then though, in order for false narratives to be spread, it required the efforts of the news media to shape the narrative in a certain direction, and that is what the movie, Richard Jewell chronicles.

A man whose life turns upside down after being accused of doing something he didn’t do feels like it is something applicable today despite the movie being set more than 20 years ago. Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood returns to the director’s chair and is joined by a talented cast and the results are nothing short of amazing.

The story follows Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser), a former police officer who gets a job as security guard during the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. One day, while on guard at the Olympic park, Richard sees a suspicious backpack and informs his fellow officers about it. They then proceed to evacuate the park, but the backpack explodes, killing two and injuring over 100 people. At first, Richard is hailed as a hero for discovering the backpack and is even given a book deal. But the FBI soon shift their investigation towards Richard as the suspect. After a story from the Atlanta Journal is released, detailing the investigation, Richard goes from hero to bad guy. Now, Richard, his mother, and his lawyer must work together in order to clear Richard’s name.

Given the subject matter of the movie, it isn’t hard to make connections with the present time.

We always see stories of people being accused of doing bad things that aren’t true, but the movie takes a look at how those kinds of events affects one’s life. Richard goes from national hero to being stalked by the press and facing allegations of being a terrorist. The whole ordeal of being harassed by the FBI and the press takes a toll on Richard and his mother.

The film doesn’t rush through the story and instead takes its time to set up the characters and goes through the story of Richard’s vilification.

Clint Eastwood as a director is known to make his movies straightforward and without that much effects. The film is at its best when it concentrates on the titular character and his struggles with the FBI and the press. Clint knows how to tell a good story and it shows. Don’t expect any fancy camera effects or CGI, Richard Jewell is a clear-cut movie that focuses on its story and its actors.

It’s a good thing then that the cast delivers great performances all around.

Richard Walter Hauser’s performance of Richard Jewell is amazing as he’s able to come off as the underdog of the story who fights against what feels like the whole world to pursue justice. He is joined by an equally talented cast such as Jon Hamm who plays Tom Shaw, the FBI agent in charge of the investigation, and Olivia Wilde who plays Kathy Scruggs, an ambitious reporter from the Atlantic Journal who first reports the FBI’s investigation on Richard. The two stars of the movie though are Sam Rockwell and Kathy Bates as Watson Bryant and Bobi Jewell respectively. Watson is Richard’s lawyer and he comes off as cool and confident, delivering some of the best lines of the movie. Bobi is Richard’s mom and Kathy plays her with so much love and vulnerability which culminates in an emotional scene involving what is arguably one of the best moments of the movie. The trio of Richard, his mom, and his lawyer make this movie so enjoyable to watch.

Richard Jewell does seem to lean towards older audiences but that doesn’t mean younger audiences can’t enjoy and learn something from this movie. Despite the movie being set in 1996, the film’s premise could be set in 2020 because of how poignant the movie’s themes and messages are.

In a few scenes of the movie, it is shown in Watson’s office that he has a poster that says “I fear the government more than I fear terrorists” and that is a good way to sum up the movie.

Richard Jewell is a gripping, intense, and emotional tale of a man who goes from a hero to villain because of false reporting. Clint Eastwood proves that he has still got it with the movie being one of the best he had directed.

A well-paced story, relevant themes, and an amazing cast all help to make Richard Jewell the great movie that it is.

Richard Jewell opens in cinemas January 15.

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