Paul Walter Hauser is a standout in movie Richard Jewell. Picture: Warner Bros
Paul Walter Hauser is a standout in movie Richard Jewell. Picture: Warner Bros

MOVIE REVIEW: A chilling tale directed by Clint Eastwood

During the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, the name of Richard Jewell became a cause for celebration. But not for long.

Jewell was not an athlete. He was a part-time security guard who saved countless lives upon discovering a hidden bomb in a busy public space.

Upon noticing a bag that had been left under a bench in a park hosting a packed concert, Jewell was able to raise enough of an alarm to get the nearby area cleared before a remote-controlled device inside the bag was detonated.

Richard Jewell is about a security guard who notices a bomb at an outdoor music event. Picture: Warner Bros
Richard Jewell is about a security guard who notices a bomb at an outdoor music event. Picture: Warner Bros

While two people died and over one hundred were seriously injured by the blast, the numbers would have been catastrophically higher if not for Jewell's fastidious attention to detail.

However, after quickly being elevated to national celebrity status, the softly-spoken Jewell's honest claims to heroism were rescinded in a matter of days.

An FBI leak tipped off the local press that Jewell was their prime suspect in unmasking the mystery Atlanta bomber.

Worse still, many follow-up stories stated the evidence was so overpowering that Jewell was a virtual lock to be found guilty by a judge when the case was tried.

There was just one problem. The FBI had no evidence whatsoever linking Jewell to the construction and activation of the bomb.

The agency's one motivating hunch was that Jewell - an overweight, socially awkward former policeman - perfectly fit their standard profile for this kind of homegrown attack upon civilians.

The feeding frenzy that followed is clearly what has drawn a high-profile filmmaker like Clint Eastwood to revisit this chilling, cautionary tale.

Paul Walter Hauser is a standout in the lead role. Picture: Warner Bros
Paul Walter Hauser is a standout in the lead role. Picture: Warner Bros

However, as hot under the collar as the movie gets about the beneficially shared abuses of power by the authorities and the media, it is actor Paul Walter Hauser's natural, understated portrayal of Jewell that humanises and elevates this feisty production.

Some eagle-eyed viewers may recognise Hauser as part of Margot Robbie's comically inept support crew in I, Tonya.

The serious nature of what Jewell went through has dragged a deceptively measured and controlled performance from Hauser here, and it is work that should be applauded widely.

Long an actor's director, Eastwood also draws great support efforts from Sam Rockwell (as Jewell's crusading lawyer) and Kathy Bates (his heartbroken mother).

 

RICHARD JEWELL (M)

Director: Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino)

Starring: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm.

Rating: ***

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