Clint Eastwood has a great eye for a story and a directing style that often fits the kind of dramatic tale that Richard Jewell retells perfectly. Eastwood has a no-frills, straight directing style which means that the story can tell itself and the characters can be truly heard and Jewell needs that because this story is one that grips you from the outset and won’t release until the credits roll.
Some may already know the story, especially if the media circus the movie presents is to be believed, but others, like myself, will have never heard of Richard Jewell. The movie is a cautionary tale for how quick the media can take hold of a story and how that whole process, one that still exists today and even more so with the existence of social media, can destroy people’s lives.
Richard Jewell himself is a flawed character but a great focal point for the story. He is the victim of the movie but there is a shade of grey added to him, be it through mental health issues or just a lack of social awareness. He is brought to life perfectly by the fairly unknown Paul Walter Hauser, who adds a naivety and innocence to the character that will break your heart throughout the whole movie.
He is ably supported. Sam Rockwell steals every scene he is in as the lawyer, out of his depth but fuelled by a sense of justice while Kathy Bates continues to remind people that she is one of the greatest female actors alive today, summing-up the audience’s outrage in a press conference scene which becomes a highlight of the movie. On the other side of the coin is Jon Hamm, playing as smarmy a prick as he can be alongside Olivia Wilde who manages to give reporters a worse name than they already have.
The actors bring the story to life well but the story doesn’t need much help. It is so compelling and shocking that you can’t help but be sucked in. Scenes are very rarely over-played or tension is rarely amped-up to incredulous levels. The subtle details are where the story gets you and that is where Eastwood’s style is best suited, letting the actors tell a story which is almost unbelievable but is sickeningly true.
That isn’t to say that Eastwood’s direction plays it completely straight throughout and where the movie does require a level of tension, he lays it on at the right amount of thickness. The scene involving the discovery and explosion of a bomb, the catalyst for the whole movie, and is so well staged that you will feel yourself holding your breath and then holding your head in your hands as the dramatic events play out in the aftermath.
Not all of that aftermath is told though. There is a suitable conclusion to the movie but you feel short-changed by the resolution. The story demands more and the film only goes so far in the telling. It feels like there should be more to come after the credits, even with a text scroll on-screen, and you can’t help but feel there is more to what happened after the Richard Jewell story that the film doesn’t divulge.
Overall, Richard Jewell is a fantastic retelling of a shocking but gripping true story. The cast is perfect, with Hauser bringing a complex but ultimately sympathetic character to life. There are tense moments, you will be on the edge of your seat throughout, but the ending won’t give you the satisfaction you desire.
Rating – 4.5
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