Richard Jewell is like one of those Disneyland security guards who takes 20 minutes, checking every crevice of your bag for contraband, as the line grows behind you. Typically, I hate that guy, because I just want to get into the park and have fun. Well, Clint Eastwood’s RICHARD JEWELL will make you think twice the next time you scoff at that guard.
Along the lines of beloved true crime documentaries, like Making a Murderer, RICHARD JEWELL shows what happens when an average Joe is in the wrong place at the wrong time. And it is horrifying.
Near the end of the movie, Richard (Paul Walter Hauser) tells FBI agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) that he used to believe that “federal law enforcement was just about the highest calling a person could aspire to.” But he doesn’t feel that way anymore, “not after this.” It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking moment played off brilliantly by Hauser.
This is a man who has spent his entire life trying to do what was right. Was he, at times, overzealous? Yes. I’ve already admitted, that had I ever run into him, I would’ve thought he was a little too intense, too much of a stickler, but that’s not an arrest-worthy offense.
It didn’t make sense for Jewell to have had enough time to call about the bomb from a payphone, and somehow still make it back in time to be near enough that he got thrown from the blast. But the officers weren’t looking for the most logical, accurate outcome. They were looking for a scapegoat. And, as they said many times, Jewell fit the profile of a white man who wanted to be an officer and was likely frustrated at his lot in life. He was an easy target.
As a journalist, and someone who loves true crime, it pains me to acknowledge that I see it. I can see why they were gunning for Jewell. Serial killers often like to take a souvenir from the crime scene. They have a lot of guns, and, yes, are often surly, unsatisfied white men in their late 20s or early 30s.
Jewell’s lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) makes the same point. He looks at his receptionist Nadya (Nina Arianda), and says, “This kid is getting railroaded.” Then, despite how hard he knew it would be to fight the big guys at the FBI, he took on the case. Because, like Jewell, he knew that he had to do the right thing – and that was not letting an innocent man go to jail.
Olivia Wilde is great as overeager reporter Kathy Scruggs, and that’s not to say that I liked her. Her character is an awful stereotype of a female journalist, sleeping with sources, and risking it all for the headline and the glory. A lot of characters in RICHARD JEWELL don’t come off looking too great.
RICHARD JEWELL will make you emotional. It will make you question the system we have been taught to blindly respect and trust. If you watch programs like Making a Murderer and scream at the TV, because how can the judicial system be failing us so hard? Well, this film is a great step by step view of exactly how this happens. Sometimes closing a case is more important than putting the bad guy – the right bad guy – away. And that’s a scary thing to come to terms with.
Kathy Bates gives an emotional and heart-wrenching performance as Bobi Jewell, a private, old woman who just wanted the best for her son. There are so many beautiful acting performances in this movie about such terrible circumstances.
Now, more than ever is a time for us to acknowledge the flaws in the system. There’s no way to ever fix them if good people – like Jewell and Bryant – don’t stand up for what is right.
Political diatribe aside, RICHARD JEWELL is a suspenseful, well-acted, compelling story that will actually hold your attention the entire time. While we’re all stuck in quarantine, we may as well use this time to either be entertained or to work on ourselves. With RICHARD JEWELL, we can all do both. RICHARD JEWELL is now available to own on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.