Clint Eastwood’s true story of a foiled a terrorist bomb plot is problematic and lacks nuance. By celebrating an unsung hero, it misrepresents its own facts.
Clint Eastwood’s latest movie sees the Hollywood veteran tell the true story of an American security guard who foiled a terrorist bomb plot at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The event was misreported at the time, and Richard Jewell ended up hounded by the press and suspected of being a terrorist by the FBI.
Openly conservative and no fan of what the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. labels the “fake news media”, Eastwood was a perfect fit for this engaging trial-by-media story, which continues his run of films that deal with real-life figures whose heroic acts have been unfairly scrutinised. From American Sniper to Sully, this often-clumsy crusading sees Eastwood bring out the best in his actors but fluff it when it comes to delivering potent exposés. No surprises here, as Paul Walter Hauser is terrific in the central role, helped by a stellar supporting cast (Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates), but this missed opportunity of a film lacks nuance and often feels problematic. Especially egregious is its misogynistic misrepresentation of a fictitious event as fact, focusing on a female journalist (played by Olivia Wilde) who sleeps with a source for information. In the end, Eastwood brazenly wants to celebrate an unsung hero but, by misrepresenting facts himself, is essentially hoist with his own petard.
Richard Jewell / Directed by Clint Eastwood (US, 2019), with Paul Walter Hauser, Kathy Bates, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell. Starts July 02 (rerelease).