Hero or villain? Richard Jewell, the movie, answers that question about the chief suspect in the Centennial Park bombing in 1996, which killed two people and left more than 100 injured.
On 27th July that year, during the Atlanta Olympics, security guard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser – I, Tonya) discovers a suspicious backpack hidden under a bench in the park that is found to contain an incendiary device.
This is a guy who is a trusting man and believes in the power and responsibility of law enforcement.
It is he who makes the running on this matter. With little time to spare, he helps clear the immediate area around the backpack, ultimately saving many lives and minimising potential injuries.
While he is hailed a hero at the time, three days later his life implodes when the FBI jumps to the conclusion that he “did it”. The Bureau determines that he was the one who planted the bomb.
The reason – put simply, profiling theory.
A large, single man, Jewell dotes upon his loving mother, Bobi (Kathy Bates – Misery), who is mighty proud to see what her son did to save all those people – until she, too, gets swept up in the maelstrom.
The pair is unable to move without media crews and the FBI tailing them and listening in to their conversations.
Jewell then turns to a man, Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell – Jojo Rabbit), he met at another job years earlier, somebody who impressed him because he was prepared to listen to what Jewell had to say, rather than making fun of him, like others had.
That man is a lawyer and Jewell is now in a position where he needs all the help he can get.
Let’s face it, the FBI pulled a hatchet job here that would have been more at home when the intelligence and security service was under the leadership of J Edgar Hoover.
You sit there watching in disbelief.
The film – written by Billy Ray (Captain Phillips), based on true events and on a Vanity Fair article titled “American Nightmare – The Ballad of Richard Jewell” by Marie Brenner – features a surfeit of rich characters and first-rate performances.
None are better than Hauser as a left of centre, larger than life, upholder of the law who gets caught up in a firestorm and Rockwell as the rough and ready, call it like it is attorney, with a sharp mind, who doesn’t take a backward step.
They are ably supported by Bates as Jewell’s nearest and dearest, who – like Jewell – is totally blindsided by the events that play out.
Olivia Wilde (A Vigilante) makes quite an impression as the gung ho journalist, Kathy Scruggs, who would do anything for a scoop.
Jon Hamm takes charge as the morally questionable lead FBI agent Tom Shaw (a fictionalised character), willing to bring down Richard Jewell at any cost – and, not surprisingly, he grates – just as he is supposed to.
Richard Jewell is driven by masterly direction from Clint Eastwood.
There is something special when Eastwood takes charge of a picture and Richard Jewell is no exception.
Rated M, Richard Jewell scores an 8 out of 10.