IN 1996, the city of Atlanta is buzzing with anticipation as the host of the Olympic Games and none more so than Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser), a law enforcement obsessive who has been hired as a security guard for the celebrations at Centennial Park.
When he spots an unattended knapsack under a light and sound tower, his commitment to procedure is laughed at by the other guards until they discover it actually is a bomb and his early warning saves lives.
He is lauded as a hero until the FBI receive a tip off from an old employer of Jewell’s, who warns that he fits the profile of someone who may have planted the bomb himself.
At first willing and eager to help, when Jewell realises he is the one being investigated he calls on an old lawyer friend Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) to help him against what becomes an impossible barrage of negative media and intrusive policing.
Hauser provides an exceptional performance, able to show Jewell as a man both impossibly oblivious yet highly aware of how others see him, as annoying and self-important yet loving and kind to his mother Bobi (Kathy Bates).
Rockwell is reliably good as the eccentric lawyer and his chemistry with Hauser makes for the best scenes of the film.
Other characters, namely FBI agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) and journalist Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), get less nuanced portrayals, with Wilde’s flirty will-do-anything-to-get-a-story reporter a particularly troubling version of a real person who is not alive defend themselves.
Richard Jewell brings to life a piece of recent history, with director Clint Eastwood giving the once-maligned man a chance to tell his side of the story.
Richard Jewell (M)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates
Three and a half stars