Director Clint Eastwood knows what many avid movie goers have realized for many years; that the best movies are often the ones that are about true stories. “Richard Jewell”, the new movie about a security guard who was falsely accused of planting a bomb at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta is one of the best true story properties Clint Eastwood’s production company has made in the last few years – on a par with “Sully” released in 2016.
The most amazing thing about this story of FBI and media incompetence is that something like this could ever happen to any decent human being in this country who was not only innocent, but a hero who saved countless lives because he did his job so well. Richard Jewell’s problem was that he fit too many of personal characteristics of other similar criminals and bombers, including the fact that he was kind of a loner who lived with his mother. Due to the desperation of the FBI, the speed of their “rushing go judgement” including missing the simple fact that the person who called in the bomb threat at a pay phone outside of the Olympic park on July 27, 1996 was too far away to also plant the bomb. Once the FBI realized they missed this obvious piece of evidence, they tried to manufacture a second possibility that Jewell was using an accomplice. The FBI then also tried to trick Jewell into confessing, by telling him they were going to shoot a training video for FBI personnel – something that I was amazed to see could ever happen in this country.
This nightmare that terrorized Richard Jewell, played perfectly by Paul Walter Hauser and his mother Bobi Jewell played by Kathy Bates went on for 88 days. The lead investigator Tom Shaw, played by John Hamm, even leaked the details of the FBI investigation against Jewell to a ruthless police reporter, Kathy Scruggs, played by Olivia Wilde. Once the investigation was leaked, Jewell’s picture was on the cover of every newspaper and magazine in this country, effectively ruining his reputation and destroying his life. None of the members of the FBI or the thousands of reporters covering this false story cared about Richard Jewell, they only cared about themselves and their careers. To this day, there are still many people in the world who think that Jewell had something to do with the Olympic bombing. Were it not for Jewell’s lawyer Watson Bryant played by Sam Rockwell, who he met a decade earlier during his delivery job in Watson’s law firm, its possible that Jewell would have been railroaded into jail. The relationship between Bryant and Jewell and how much Bryant cared about Jewell as a human being and a friend is one of the best things about this movie. When we are at our lowest, all of us need a friend; a great message in this film.
While watching this movie, realizing that Jewell was not only under tremendous stress but also obese, I had to wonder how he lived through this without dying of a stroke or a heart attack. Unfortunately Richard Jewell did die in 2007 of heart failure brought on by Diabetes.
I agree with the mostly positive reviews for Richard Jewell that are in the 75% range and my opinion is a bit higher at 80%. I recommend this movie as one of the best Eastwood films about a true story.