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Cinematic Releases: Richard Jewell (2019) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 1648 days ago on Entertainment - Based on a true story, Richard Jewell might be one of Clint Eastwood’s more dynamic movies in the last ten years. Set during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, a security guard with a desire to return to the police force, Richard Jewell, is doing his routine when he discovers a suspicious backpack under a bench in Centennial Park. With little time to spare, he helps to evacuate the area until the incendiary device inside the bag explodes. Jewell manages to save hundreds of lives with his quick action and a national spotlight is shined upon him. He is getting TV interviews and book offers headed his way.  Things are turning around for Jewell until the FBI names him the prime suspect in the bombing.Richard Jewell is a compelling look at a shameful period in American history. Paul Walter Hauser is heartbreaking in this film as Jewell. Hauser has done some wonderful supporting work in films like BlacKkKlansmanand Tonya, this might be the best performance he has done yet and is one of the most compelling performances of this year. He really shines here and I would not be surprised if he doesn’t become a late contender this Oscar season. From the first frame, we are endeared to him and we hope that things end up working out for him. You understand his pain and increasing frustration at a system that seems designed to upend and destroy everything in his life for the mistake of doing the right thing. A man who has admired law enforcement all of his life is now forced to fight them for his life and freedom. Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, and Jon Hamm all do excellent work as well in the film but it is one hundred percent Hauser’s showcase.This film might be one of Eastwood’s better films this decade. Directed with precision and focus, it is a tightly wound and well-shot film. Every moment leads to something and the tension builds and builds in a way, showing that the eighty nine year old director still has some life in him. The sequence where the bomb goes off might be one of the tensest scenes of this year.This is a film that is about a culture of cynicism and mistrust and anger. Everyone doubts everything and everyone is pissed off about how they can trust the process or the system. Everyone in this film except Richard believes the worst possible thing about him and sees the worst in everybody. They are looking to poke holes in every aspect of Richard’s story, convinced that he's too dumb, too fat, too polite to be anything other than a socially awkward weirdo at best, a potential mass-murderer at worst. While the film is very good, I do have some misgivings. The fast turn around that Eastwood uses to make his movies every year shows especially during the scenes where they use archival news footage and awkwardly dub over voices or insert actors. These are things that are distracting and undermine the scenes but aren’t too noticeable. What is especially noticeable? Olivia Wilde’s over the top and terrible performance. It's the most unlikeable portrayal of a journalist in a movie in a while. I know Kathy Scruggs was a real person, but she comes across as more of a cartoon villain than an actual human being. There isn’t a moment where she shows any real humanity but just outright comical villainy at points. What makes it worse is that the folks who knew the real Kathy Scruggs say that she wasn’t like this at all. It’s a shame how a movie that does so much good work about the media inaccurately portraying someone as a villain also inaccurately portrays someone as a villain. Maybe Allison Eastwood can make a movie about her? This definitely puts a damper on the film but not enough to not recommend the sum of its parts.Richard Jewell is an important and sobering look into how mass media and society’s need for a villain ruined the life of a man who should have been treated as a national hero to admire that stumbles in places that makes it only a good film as opposed to the great film it could be.--Liam O'Connor

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