Described as a “wrong man thriller,” this film tells the story of the security guard (brilliantly played by Paul Walter Hauser) who was hailed a hero when he discovered a pipe bomb during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
That fame lasted only three days.
A tip from a former employer alerts the FBI to the possibility that Richard Jewell could have planted the bomb himself. An inappropriate leak to Atlanta Journal reporter Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) sets in motion a downward spiral of events. What follows are 88 days of intense scrutiny from the FBI and vilification by the press and public.
I watched with horror as the FBI attempts to railroad an innocent man, albeit one who does fit the profile of the lone bomber. Single and still living with his mother (Kathy Bates), Jewell appears slow on the uptake and overly-zealous in his policing work. He takes his rent-a-cop job very seriously and often butts heads with co-workers and supervisors.
Desperate for help, Jewell reaches out to feisty libertarian lawyer Watson Bryant (well played by Sam Rockwell). Despite his inexperience in criminal law, Bryant guides his naïve and childlike client, urging him to fight back against the flawed American justice system.
Respectful of authority and loyal to a fault, Jewell appears differential and accommodating throughout most of the film. In the third act, he finally stands up for himself and forces the FBI to drop all charges.
Unfortunately, there are still people out there who believe Richard Jewell was guilty of placing that bomb that injured 100 people and killed two.
A thought-provoking film from director Clint Eastwood.
Note: Richard Jewell is available on DVD.