What happens when what is reported as fact obscures the truth? “There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have thirty minutes.” Based on the true story behind the 1996 Summer Olympics Atlanta bombing incident, Richard Jewell tells the story of a hero whose swift actions save countless lives. But within days, the film’s title character becomes the FBI’s number one suspect, vilified by press and public alike, his life ripped apart.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, Richard Jewell soars with a perfect cast where no one overshadows the other. With a performance that’s earnest and poignant, Paul Walter Hauser’s portrayal of Richard Jewell deserves praise for maintaining the difficult balance of laugh-at and laugh-with. In addition, Kathy Bates portrays Bobi, who delivers an Oscar-nominated performance as a mother watching her son’s life getting shredded by the media.
Despite the serious nature of the film, Richard Jewell is a surprisingly funny film. For much of its running time, the film has a comedic tone to it, perhaps a deliberate choice to get the viewers invested before the going gets rough. Much of the film’s comedic success is attributed to Rockwell’s charismatic performance as Watson Bryant, the vibrant lawyer who took up Jewell’s case. The media circus has its comedic moments too, though it gets increasingly anxiety-inducing as the film goes on. Rightfully so, considering Jewell was put through a trial by media which took a toll on his personal and professional life.
When it comes down to its central message, Eastwood pulls no punches, celebrating the underdog while antagonising the system every chance he gets, be it the FBI or the media. The Clint Eastwood directed film is committed in in contrasting the titular character’s everyday heroism against the dual villainy of the media and the FBI. On top to that, Richard Jewell is also a profound story about friendship, as well as a portrait showcasing the endearing bond between a mother and her son.
All in all, Richard Jewell is packed with great performances and incredible moments of drama and comedy. Masterfully directed by Eastwood, the film succeeds in delivering the story of a resilient individual standing up in the face of state power. Richard Jewell commits itself in illustrating the brutal gap between American ideals and the more troubling reality of life.