Richard Jewell marks Clint Eastwood’s 41st directorial feature. At the ripe young age of 89, the man shows no signs of fatigue; in fact, his films are filled with more verve and passion – not to mention skill and sophistication – than those of most filmmakers half his age. This new Jewell in Eastwood’s sparkling filmography happens to be his most emotionally resonant, heartfelt, and purely entertaining project in years.
While Eastwood’s films tend to indict authority and its misuse of power, the man is also deeply patriotic, with a palpable affection for the HHAU (Humble Heroic American Underdog). Just see any of his recent films, from Flags of Our Fathers to The Mule. In the case of Richard Jewell, the underdog is the titular security guard, who helped prevent a tragedy of epic proportions by discovering a bomb during the 1996 Summer Olympics and promptly clearing the area.
“…helped prevent a tragedy of epic proportions by discovering a bomb during the 1996 Summer Olympics and promptly clearing the area.”
The bomb still detonated (known as the Centennial Olympic Park bombing), killing two people and injuring over 100 others – yet the damage would have been significantly worse if it were not for Richard’s act of heroism. The FBI, along with the media, pounced on Richard as the primary suspect. He was interrogated and antagonized for months, before being cleared of suspicion. The real bomber, Eric Rudolph, was arrested years later.
Eastwood methodically, and in a supremely muscular and suspenseful fashion, tells Richard’s story, letting the events unravel, allowing the shades of his characters to deepen, trusting his audience to come along for the ride. It’s entrancing, what one could call “old-school” filmmaking, without showiness or embellishments or frantic, seizure-inducing camerawork. That’s not to say the film’s sole purpose is to hark back to the “good ol’ films of yore” – its technique is the reason why we’re hooked, from the first minute till the last, undistracted by hollow eye-candy.