In a year prior to a Summer Olympics, the Hollywood folks decided it was time to bring back the story of the addled Atlanta security guard who saw a suspicious backpack during a 1996 Games celebration in Centennial Park, took the exact steps under protocol, and after a short time as a national hero for saving lives after the pipe bomb inside went off, had his life ruined as the No. 1 target in the FBI’s investigation of the crime.
Richard Jewell indeed might have reminded everybody to stay safe, live right and hope like heck the government leaves you alone as the world prepared to appreciate the greatness of human athletic achievements come this summer in Tokyo.
Then came COVID-19, and the Tokyo Games was one of the magnificent events canceled as the world struggled to flatten the curve. It’s now scheduled for 2021.
Not the promotional strings the movie-makers had intended for this bio-pic directed by Clint Eastwood from the screenplay by Billy Ray taken from the Vanity Fair article by Marie Brenner.
Eastwood plays it this way:
Jewell, played with deer-in-the-headlights honesty by first-star-turn Paul Walter Hauser, is guilty of a lot of things, sure. The live-with-mom sclub’s enthusiasm for guns and law enforcement led to trouble and dismissal in previous real-police gigs. But it also allowed his gotta-get-people-out behavior when he saw that backpack on the fateful night.
The true bad guys, meanwhile, were the machines that ran the press and the FBI, more individually the reporter and agent that used each other to break the first story and fuel each and every instance of lambasting that followed. And there were many as no stone in poor Jewell’s life went unturned in the press or by the FBI.
He might not be a genius, but he was smart enough to turn to the one man who treated him well when he worked as a small guy in a big law firm.
Sam Rockwell is both annoying and terrific as lawyer Watson Bryant, indignant to the way his client is treated and tenacious against the two big machines. Throw in Olivia Wilde as the scoop-chasing Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter, Jon Hamm as the FBI agent and Kathy Bates as Jewell’s mom, and there’s some star power to move the story along, too.
It’ll carry you through 2 hours, 11 minutes at home in a year when the Olympics have been canceled, and give you an ending to cheer, too.