Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Richard Jewell

This drama tells a story that some know very well and other may not have heard of at all. It's the true story of how Richard (Paul Walter Hauser), a security guard in the Atlanta Olympic games in 1996, spotted and reported a bomb on his shift. How his actions saved hundreds of lives. And how he then came to be unfairly blamed for the attack by the media.

The story would be too unbelievable if it weren't true. 

It's directed by Clint Eastwood, and as such, comes from a perspective that's uniquely his. See, Clint Eastwood is an established and confident director, who's not out to hone his craft, or advance an artistic style, or even to win awards for himself. He wanted to tell this story because he thought it was worth telling the world what kind of a man Richard Jewell really was; and so that's exactly what he did, plain and simple. The narrative isn't experimental or from some fresh new perspective; it tells the story straightforwardly, without fuss. Moment to moment, it lays down the facts of the case, and slowly we watch as a life is built up, torn down, and rebuilt again.

It's deceptively simple, especially in a day when studios feel the need to force-feed emotion to their audience, to the point even, where the audience has come to expect it. This film isn't built on emotion but information, and yet I found it to easily be one of the most emotionally powerful films released in the 2019 year. I've always held that the best way for a film to craft its tone is to reflect its lead, and that's what it does, matching Jewell's steadfast, focused, and simple way. He's the kind of person whose core is hard to get to, who doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, and who has strict ideas of the world around him that dictates his actions.

Oh and did I mention that Sam Rockwell is in this movie?

Like Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) the brash but genuine lawyer that Richard hires when his life turns upside down, this movie sticks by his side longer than most would bother to, and eventually, we get to see who he is. Paul Walter Hauser plays him in such a minutely precise way, that to look at him it's near-impossible to see anything but the character, who feels like, and is, a real person. He's certainly not a typical movie hero type, but through the film's patient eyes we sympathize with him, are angry and frustrated for him, and root for him to win the day and overcome the impossible. It's an immaculate performance that hits every right note to win us over but still make the character real and flawed and honest.

If you know me, you know Sam Rockwell is one of my favorite actors, and here he does his usual fantastic job. Hauser may be the main character, but it's Rockwell who drives the film. He's the only one who has the energy to pull entertainment out of the situation which is reality was nothing short of a waking eternal nightmare. Kathy Bates is also there giving an award-worthy performance as Richard's mother. She is also fully submerged in the role. Jon Hamm is the FBI agent in charge of the bombing investigation, who leaks the story to the press, namely Olivia Wilde, whose cynical, careless character was a delight to hate, with a surprise or two later on that impressed me greatly.

Despite this scene being as remarkably moving as it was...

The only slight problem is one that was insurmountable: the conclusion just isn't as satisfying as it should have been. That's life. If the real-life story had a great end point where everything wrapped up perfectly I'm sure it would have been made into a film before now. But life's not fair, even when people fight hard and justice wins. Mr. Eastwood wanted us to know that I guess. Maybe so that we would do our part to prevent injustice in the first place. The story of Richard Jewell is already worth telling; that makes it a story worth remembering too.

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