Richard Jewell is a biographical drama directed and produced by Clint Eastwood and written by Billy Ray. It is based on the 1997 Vanity Fair article “American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell” by Marie Brenner, and the 2019 book The Suspect by Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen. The film depicts the Centennial Olympic Park bombing and its aftermath during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, in which security guard Richard Jewell found a bomb and alerted authorities to evacuate, only to later be wrongly accused of having placed it himself.
In 1986, Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) finds employment as an office supplies distributor in a small public law firm. Richard being overweight is mocked behind his back by colleagues. Meanwhile, his over the top boss, attorney Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) forms a bond with Richard over arcade games and candy bars. It was nothing to hear Watson yelling over the phone or banging the receiver endlessly when he was upset. Eventually, Richard leaves the job for a position as a security guard at Piedmont College moving him closer toward his goal of being in law enforcement. Richard took enforcing law much more seriously than most. In some cases, Richard would over-exaggerate the complexity of the situation and react with force or harassment, unnecessarily. After 10 years filled with multiple complaints from students as well as acting outside his jurisdiction, he gets fired by the university’s dean, Dr. W. Ray Cleere (Charles Green). After being fired, Richard is forced to move back home with his mother Bobi (Kathy Bates). Soon, Richard obtains a new position as a security guard during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia and is stationed at Centennial Park.
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Richard along with other law enforcement officers maintain security during the various concerts and events taking place at the venue. Sometime after midnight on the morning of July 27, 1996, after chasing off some drunken delinquents, Richard discovers a suspicious backpack beneath a bench beside the NBC broadcast tower. Not knowing what was in the backpack, Richard insisted that they call 911 to report it. Meanwhile, someone calls the police and says “there’s a bomb in Centennial Park, you’ve got 30 minutes”. The bomb explodes killing two people and injuring over 100. In the immediate aftermath, Richard is heralded as a hero who saved many of the attendees’ lives and is swarmed by media outlets. However, at Atlanta’s FBI office, agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) has been alerted by the dean who fired Richard that based on information from his past records, Richard could be a suspect instead of a hero.
Richard Jewell is based on a true story and was very good. The only problem is if you’re unfamiliar with the incident, we won’t know how much of what we’re seeing is accurate. In the case of Richard Jewell, there are people protesting against the portrayal of the female reporter, Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) because she has passed on and unable to defend herself. Some think the movie was too hard on her and perhaps didn’t really know if she was willing to sleep with anyone to get a story on the front page of the newspaper she worked for. Meanwhile, what the FBI did to Richard and his mother, Bobi was truly devastating. They even tried to label him a homosexual without any evidence. This story actually had me crying, as Bobi made a speech that broke my heart. Richard Jewell received generally positive reviews from critics and was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the ten best films of the year, with Kathy Bates also being recognized for Best Supporting Actress. The film made $5 million on a $45 million budget it’s opening weekend. See Richard Jewell, it’s worth your time. Check It Out!