Opening 19 Mar 2020
Director Clint Eastwood recreates events surrounding a travesty of justice 24 years ago. Billy Ray’s screenplay, based on Marie Brenner’s 1997Vanity Fair article, American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell, tracks how the overnight-hero quickly became the 113th victim of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, based on no solid evidence. Settle in for an incredibly eye-opening journey; to quote Eastwood, “…as a society, we can do better. If that’s a lesson Richard can give us, I think that’s great. That’s a hero.”
Paul Walter Hauser’s performance as Richard Jewell is phenomenal and, he is Jewell’s doppelgänger. Richard’s lifelong ambition was to be a police officer; instead, he was a security guard as the Olympic 1996 Atlanta (Georgia) Games began. He discovered the abandoned bag containing incendiary devices July 27 at Centennial Park, and saved countless lives by warning people. Sam Rockwell met the attorney Watson Bryant (Rockwell’s character) beforehand; it helped Sam better exemplify the smart, independent, strong-willed person. Richard and Watson established a friendship—he somewhat mentored Richard—that continues with Bobie to this day. Kathy Bates skillfully encapsulates Bobie, the bighearted, pragmatic, single working mom whose pride quickly spiraled into crushing fear. Bobi told Kathy what they experienced in real-time before filming began. Jon Hamm plays FBI agent Tom Shaw—an amalgamation of several agents involved. Intense external pressure—the games were to start, incomplete police work, and overzealousness matched Jewell to the lone bomber profile. Olivia Wilde plays Kathy Scruggs, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution newspaper reporter as described by acquaintances: dynamically dogged, insolent, fearless and brilliant. Dead-set on getting a scoop and byline, Scruggs broke the story. Rounding out the stellar cast is Nina Arianda as Nadya Bryant’s levelheaded paralegal, and Niko Nicotera as Richard’s friend David Dutchess.
Cinematographer Yves Bélanger’s in-close, personal compositions were often filmed at actual locations; Arturo Sandoval’s music is encompassing, and Joel Cox’s editing seamlessly blends archival footage, albeit some transitions are patchy. Longtime Eastwood collaborators Kevin Ishioka (Production Design) and Deborah Hopper (Costumes), plus Priscilla Elliott (Art Direction) and Ronald R. Reiss (Sets) effectively recreate that era.
In 1996, the Munich Olympic tragedy lingered in people’s minds, and the FBI were captivated with the profile theory. Richard was convicted in the court of public opinion, yet when exonerated neither the government nor Scruggs proclaimed his innocence. However, Brenner says of her article, “My time in Atlanta, and what happened to Richard, had a profound effect on me as a reporter… Seeking justice for this man became a mission for me…” Der Fall Richard Jewell is timely and yes, the “Miranda rights” scene happened as portrayed and, Richard Jewell really is a hero. (Marinell Haegelin)