Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Richard Jewell

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Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures

I’m assuming I’m not the only person that realises why director Clint Eastwood has geared up his latest feature to tackle through a piece that is wrapped in red, white and blue patriotism. Considering a great number of his previous films from the past decade have been biopics of unsung American heroes, you can probably guess what style and tone of a film Richard Jewell is, his latest feature film starring Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Olivia Wilde and Jon Hamm. 

Eastwood has taken us through heroic acts masqueraded by the media as potentially life threatening before in films such as Sully: Miracle on the Hudson, but the problem with that film was it was very tiresome and ultimately boring. Learning from his mistakes somewhat, and nearing the end of a truly marvellous career that has spanned more than half of a century, Eastwood provides us with what is essentially his strongest film to release from the past decade. Perhaps taking on board the criticism of his slow pacing in previous endeavours (J. Edgar for instance was paced so slowly that the film ended before anything of merit actually happened), he dives right into the story surrounding security guard Richard Jewell (Hauser).  

Rather than plodding through painstaking, bland dialogue and character building we’re instead thrown right into the drama of Richard Jewell after about twenty minutes, following the media interpretation of a hero turned apparent terrorist. There aren’t even any opening credits, just Sam Rockwell eating Snickers bars and Kathy Bates cooking some frankly horrendous looking cakes. Richard Jewell packs that high octane action throughout, and Eastwood continues his trend of nonchalant biopics. 

We follow a bedazzled security guard obsessed with returning to his role as a police officer, his star struck feelings toward law enforcement outline much of the film. His respect for those who honour and serve America get the better of him from the get go as he looks near brainwashed in his compliancy to the FBI. His close connection to the FBI and law enforcement on the whole is something I truly cannot understand. How someone so hunted by government agencies can be so loyal to those very same individuals who are actively trying to pin and frame him for something he never did. Yet that is the focus of the movie, and it presents his mindset in broad daylight while failing to analyse why exactly he feels he should be so compliant.  

I had anticipated a film that I would actively dislike, but Richard Jewell does have a few pieces scattered throughout that do elicit a genuinely enjoyable and engaging time. The latter half of the film is made up of how a man badgered by the press daily refuses to break down. If anything, it lacks that typical biopic scene where an explosive realisation is made and the character has a visible change, now wanting to fight back rather than sit down and take it. Richard Jewell doesn’t receive such a scene, but the performance from Hauser and his chemistry with Rockwell just about manages us a serviceable portrayal of the fight back the two had against the FBI and press. 

Echoing every other praise heaped onto this film, the universally accepted premise of Kathy Bates giving us a knockout supporting performance is more or less inarguable. She hits all the right notes for that Academy Award nomination soft spot, crying and looking truly confused or flabbergasted in the majority of her scenes. It’s a good performance, and if anything, it’s a tad more interesting to watch her brief few scenes, a portrayal of a woman struggling under the pressures of worldwide media attention. 

Jon Hamm’s aversion to all of his surroundings, a blanket of confusion masking his expression, just about sums up how I felt watching Richard Jewell. Maybe I’ve rated studied into the meaning of the film too much, or maybe I’m just giving Eastwood a free pass because he finally directs me through a biopic that didn’t leave me bored to tears. There are engaging moments to be found throughout Richard Jewell, but whether or not audiences from across the Pacific can engage with this overly patriotic piece is an entirely different story. I didn’t, and most of the fragmented pieces throughout gave me no reason to connect with any of the events depicted by Eastwood and a somewhat talented cast.