Film Reviews

Richard Jewell (dir. Eastwood)

Eastwood is mostly back on form after a string of stinkers.

Image: Kathy Bates, Sam Rockwell, and Paul Walter Hauser in Richard Jewell © Photograph by Claire Folger [Source: IMDB]

★★★☆☆

American security guard Richard Jewell saves thousands of lives from an exploding bomb at the 1996 Olympics but is vilified by journalists and the press who falsely reported that he was a terrorist.

Director: Clint Eastwood. Starring: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Jon Hamm, Kathy Bates [15]

So If you kept up with my opinion on Eastwood’s films since I started writing my opinions down on this site. You’ll know that I unlike some, think Eastwood has made some absolute stinkers in the latter part of his career. Most especially the last two films of his left such a bad taste in my mouth that seeing such a great line up for this one had me nervous.

Thankfully Eastwood seems to have stopped trying to prove something with this picture and instead just focuses on the core matter of why he is making the film, to begin with. To which is a very admirable and agreeable premise; to clear a wrongly vilified man of his name. Richard Jewell, cast and played excellently by Paul Walter Hauser is our sympathetic protagonist to which our narrative explores the very real story and real-world through our cinematic lense. Eastwood maturely tackles gripes he seemingly has with journalists and journalism at large, which its focus on grabbing headlines and the ambition that poisons the talented people. By following a cunning, conniving reporter (Olivia Wilde) as she quite literally sleeps her way into a story and presses pressure down on an innocent man in order to grab big dog attention.

This is mirrored in the FBI agent’s plotline as he chases a thread he most surely knew was bogus. Just because his ambition to appear greater than his posting allowed him to be. The amplification of this being the exact reason Jewell was framed – “the want to be hero” being both humourous and sharply clever by Eastwood’s framing of the narrative. Still, however, Eastwood still struggles to keep a strong dramatic pace. With often the drama entirely taking a back seat to scenes of likely claimed “character development” but to which the reality speaks the opposite. Dragging, wandering scenes clog up numerous parts of the film which detracts from the emotional connection. Eastwood also fails to really bring home the claustrophobia being under the gaze of the entire US media, Government and even the entire world to the viewer’s attention.

Instead, the cinematography sits lazily still and unenergetic, plodding along with the meandering plot. This furthers the audiences emotional disconnect which makes the finale pack less of a punch, for sure it still is a reliving moment of empathy for Richard Jewell and a moment of reflection on this event and its realities in the modern world. Still the performances all round are truly great and do all they can to keep the audience thoroughly engaged and succeed in compelling the audience into sympathy or distain where appropriate. Eastwood tells the story compellingly and seems back on form, but there’s still lots of room for doubt in his filmmaking prowess in his later years.

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