Richard Jewell ⭐⭐½

Clint Eastwood’s latest film is not bad per se, it’s just problematic and left me feeling uncomfortable and manipulated. Perhaps it’s because it’s hard to disassociate the director with his political agenda (hidden or otherwise) that might have motivated him, but the treatment given to this story, scripted by Billy Ray, comes across as subversive polemic against FBI incompetence and freedom of the press disguised as inspirational TV movie under Eastwood’s no-frills directorial style. Based on the real story of Richard Jewell, the security guard who initially spotted the bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics who was subsequently vilified by the media when the FBI wrongly considered him as their prime suspect purely because his appearance and profile fit that of a lone bomber, Paul Walter Hauser plays him with the innocence of an over-eager boy scout and aptly conveys a multitude of conflicted emotions and strengths. Together with Rockwell’s helpful and likeable lawyer, they provide the anchor for which the audience can easily get behind. Oscar nominated Kathy Bates is reliably good as Jewell’s suffering mother but truthfully, there are snubs that deserve her spot more. If these decent performances deserve a better film, then those on the other side of the conflict are simply short-changed. Jon Hamm’s composite FBI agent and Olivia Wilde’s journalist who’s hell-bent on breaking the news first at all costs are sketchily drawn and lazily demonised as we see them conniving in dark sleazy bars. With a script that’s been accused of simplifying the truth and embellishing with salacious glee, this is heavy on sentiments and light on nuance. There is a fair and balanced film to be made out of Jewell’s story, about how falsity, stubborn pigheadedness and prejudices can easily ruin an innocent everyman’s life. Sadly this isn’t it.

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