Richard Jewell is named after the security guard who spotted a backpack bomb in Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He saved an immense amount of lives by running around, warning the crowd to evacuate. The movie tells the true story of how he was falsely accused of being the bomber.
Jewell fit the profile of someone who would plant a bomb to then become a hero by finding it: He was white, male, and had a lifelong dream of becoming a police officer. The FBI distrusted such wannabe cops. The local paper managed to get a leak of the investigation, then ran with the story. Because of that, the FBI was under pressure to resolve things quickly, so they ramped up the pressure on him.
If my description of the movie seems simple, it’s because the movie tells his story in a plain, straight-forward manner. There are no plot gimmicks or forced melodrama. It simply shows what happened.
Paul Walter Hauser should get an Oscar nomination for his performance. Hauser completely becomes Richard Jewell, a working-class hero who has no idea how to grapple with the forces out to destroy him. And Kathy Bates as his longsuffering mother is amazing as she shows the anguish she went through.
Clint Eastwood produced and directed. He has complete credibility for this sort of movie. Those of you who are old enough will remember the saying, “It took Nixon to go to China.” That is, President Nixon was so thoroughly anti-Communist before and during his presidency, he could go and open relations with Communist China without the American people thinking he was betraying us. In the same way, Clint Eastwood as an actor is most famously known as his Dirty Harry character, who had to unflinchingly use lethal force to deal with the worst of street criminals. Obviously, Clint Eastwood is not anti-law enforcement. But he can show how horrible things can become when law enforcement goes out of control.
One of the FBI agents does say something interesting in the movie. A profile is just “a jumping-off point.” It’s just a start, but then they need evidence. Watch the movie and see if they ever have any.