During the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, security guard Richard Jewell discovers a suspicious backpack under a bench in Centennial Park. With little time to spare, he helps to evacuate the area until the incendiary device inside the bag explodes. Hailed as a hero who saved lives, Jewell’s own life starts to unravel when the FBI names him the prime suspect in the bombing.
Plot: American security guard Richard Jewell saves thousands of lives from an exploding bomb at the 1996 Olympics, but is vilified by journalists and the press who falsely reported that he was a terrorist.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Runtime: 131 min
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Richard Jewell simplifies the real-life events that inspired it — yet still proves that Clint Eastwood remains a skilled filmmaker of admirable economy.
“Paul Walter Hauser for the win.”
In 1986, Richard Jewell works as an office supply clerk at a small public law firm. While he’s there he builds a relationship with attorney Watson Bryant who helps him work up the courage to leave the firm and pursue a law enforcement career. In the near future he’s hired as a sheriff’s deputy, but ends up being discharged. 10 years later it’s 1996 and he’s working as a security guard at Piedmont College, but once again is fired after multiple complaints of acting beyond his jurisdiction. Leaving little on the table, he moves in with his mother Bobi and gets a job as security guard at the 1996 Olympic Games, monitoring Centennial Park.
In the early morning of July 27, 1996, after chasing off drunken revelers during a Jack Mack and the Heart Attack concert, Jewell notices a suspicious package beneath a bench, which an explosives expert confirms contains a bomb. The security team including; police officers, FBI agent Tom Shaw and Jewell’s friend Dave Dutchess begin to moves concert attendees away from the bomb when it detonates. Jewell, being the man that spotted the package is initially heralded as a hero.
At Atlanta’s FBI office, Shaw and his team come to determination that Jewell, as a white, male, “wanna-be” police officer, fits the profile of perpetrators committing similar crimes. They begin to compare him to others who sought attention by rescuing people from a dangerous situation they caused themselves.
FBI agent Shaw is approached by journalist Kathy Scruggs of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution for something to print. In exchange for sex, Shaw reveals that Jewell is under FBI suspicion. What does she do with that information? Her paper publishes Scruggs’s story on the front page, disclosing the FBI’s interest in Jewell as a possible suspect. Scruggs makes particular note of Jewell’s physique, the fact he lives with his mother, and work history to reassure herself that he fits the FBI’s profile. The story quickly becomes international news.
What happens from here? What unfolds? Did he do it? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
In conclusion —
What Richard Jewell does best is tell a little-known story with the best dramatization available. What’s even better? Paul Walter Hauser gives a powerhouse performance of an American hero robbed of his glory and, regardless of what some critics think, Clint Eastwood makes it all work. He shows the real-life drama highlighting the abuse of power by not only the government, but the press. It’s an absolute mess and he conveys that on screen at the highest level.
It’s disappointing when a movie gets bad press — deserving or not. Why? It takes away from the hard work the actors and crew put in that brought the film to life. There are plenty of people online trying to point Richard Jewell in the direction of a political-first movie because of Clint Eastwood’s beliefs, but let’s bounce off that bit and stick the real problem, the reporter. The best quote that I saw was in Peter Travers’ review, “The attempt to slut-shame a reporter who’s not around to defend herself stands as a black mark in a film that otherwise hews close to the proven facts of the case.” That hits the spot altogether, through and through.
I don’t have a say in the matter of people’s opinion, but the one thing I can recommend is you need to see the movie for yourself and then decide how much attention it deserves. Is it a black mark? Yes, but it shouldn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy the movie. Do that first, then weigh in.
Lastly, this movie comes with some Special Features, two to be exact. First you get ‘The Making of Richard Jewell‘ and second you’ll get ‘The Real Story of Richard Jewell.’ Both top in at about 7 minutes each, so you’ll get a total of 14 minutes of extra runtime. If you’re looking for more information on the story, this might not do it for you, but it’s there nevertheless.
Taking everything I’ve said into account, Richard Jewell gets my recommendation for an automatic day-one purchase. Do yourself a favor, grab a copy at your local retailer on Blu-ray March 17th. You won’t be disappointed. It’s one of the better films of 2019, don’t sleep on it.
Did you catch Richard Jewell in theater? Were you a fan of this movie? Will you be picking it up to own? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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