Chris Kyle, Chesley Sullenberger and now Richard Jewell. Clint Eastwood’s latest film sees him return to tell the tale of yet another American hero. His film is based on a Vanity Fair article by Marie Brenner and tells the story of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing and the subsequent investigation and media storm that followed. Portraying the real life man who found the bomb, later becoming the suspect for planting it is Paul Walter Hauser who here leads an all star cast.
Eastwood’s previous two films, ‘The 15:17 to Paris’ and ‘The Mule’ were not good examples of his talents as a director. These missteps had made some film fans wonder if it was time for him to call it a day on directing duties. However, ‘Richard Jewell’ should silence any concerns of critics as Eastwood has delivered his best film since his Best Picture nominee ‘American Sniper’. Billy Ray’s screenplay begins by giving the audience some important context and background to Jewell but quickly gets underway recounting the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. Eastwood directs these scenes well, creating a sense of dread and tension that would be expected of a sequence like this. These moments engage the audience but in the grand scheme of the story prove only a set-up for the main body of the narrative; the shift in the media portrayal of Jewell from hero to villian. It’s these final two acts of the film that audiences will enjoy most, expertly blending intrigue, emotion and comedy into a compelling story of media influence, abuse of power and every day people doing what they believe is right.
‘Richard Jewell’ is brought to life by a superb cast, with performances across the board impressing. Paul Walter Hauser is brilliant as the leading man, building on the string of strong supporting performances he’s previously delivered in the likes of ‘I, Tonya’ and ‘BlacKkKlansman’. His support comes from Oscar winner Sam Rockwell, delivering one of his most entertaining and skilled performances since his Academy win. Awards attention has been directed to their co-star Kathy Bates who’s earned herself a supporting actress nomination for her portrayal of Barbara Jewell, Richard’s mother. Bates is great here, showcasing her ability just as much in the moments of quiet as she does in those of noise. Continuing the strength of the ensemble is Jon Hamm, who plays an FBI Agent and Olivia Wilde, portraying journalist Kathy Scruggs. Both performers excel in their roles however, the treatment of Scruggs as a character is the dark cloud that looms over ‘Richard Jewell’ in an otherwise clear cinematic sky. Without context it doesn’t affect the overall viewing experience however with some quick research it does become problematic especially when viewed through the lens of the central theme of misplaced accusations.
There’s definitely a discussion to be had about the implications of the treatment of that character but aside from this ‘Richard Jewell’ is a remarkable return to form for the veteran director. At over two hours long one might be wary but the running time never once becomes an issue, instead this biographical drama will engross and entertain you to no end. The strength in the casts’ collective performance ensures that this fascinating narrative makes for much more of a convincing effort from Eastwood, far more in line with the expectations that a project with his name attached to it should bring.
Written by Hamish Calvert
STAR RATING –★★★★
Question: What is your favourite film directed by Clint Eastwood?
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Thanks to Movie House Cinemas for screening access