- 03 Feb 20
FASCINATING TRUE STORY ABOUT ABUSE, POWER AND TRUTH REVEALS EASTWOOD’S OWN BIASES
Richard Jewell is a film about power; who wants it, wields it, abuses it. Based on a true story, I, Tonya scene-stealer Paul Walter Hauser plays Richard Jewell, a gullible, slow-minded, awkward man who idolises law enforcement’s ideals of law, order and power – resulting in him taking his security jobs far too seriously.
Yet Jewell’s overzealousness leads him to notice a suspicious backpack while working at a concert in Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics. When the bomb explodes, Jewell’s quick-thinking and conscientiousness are first hailed as heroism – but suspicions begin to arise. Could Jewell be a lone wolf bomber, willing to endanger people just so he could publicly save them and finally be noticed?
When FBI investigator Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) leaks to journalist Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) that Jewell is the main suspect, she publishes the information. Suddenly, Jewell finds himself under relentless scrutiny, as law enforcement, media and the public all harass him in their desperation for a quick, digestible, satisfying narrative.
Given these themes of power, abuse and truth, it’s disappointing that Clint Eastwood uses his film to falsely assert that a (now deceased) female journalist schemed and slept her way to success. Misogyny drips from this portrayal of Scrugg as a coarse, conniving, and incompetent seductress. Eastwood comparatively pulls his punches when it comes to applying the same level of critique to the US government and law enforcement, or questioning the source and ramifications of Jewell’s blind faith and trust in them. Like the story at its core, Richard Jewell is alternately fascinating and frustrating – revealing the entrenched flaws and biases of those entrusted to tell it.