Clint Eastwood spent half of his career playing reluctant heroes. From his portrayal of Dirty Harry to his westerns as The Man with No Name to the Outlaw Josey Wales, Clint became a Hollywood legend playing men of very few words. Most of his characters were enigmas. He played a series of quiet men who excelled at getting the job done.
Ironically, or maybe appropriately, Eastwood has spent the second half of his career analyzing the kinds of men he played in the first half of his career.
From aging gunfighter Bill Munny in Unforgiven to Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in American Sniper to hero pilot Chesley Sullenberger in Sully, Clint Eastwood the director has been obsessed with finding out what makes these men tick while also examining how our world tends to tear down its own heroes.
And the same can be said for Eastwood’s latest film behind the camera. In Richard Jewell, the director turns his sights to the 1996 bombing in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.
Jewell was a security guard during the Atlanta Olympics who discovered three pipes bombs shortly before they detonated. He saved dozens, perhaps hundreds of lives, by alerting law enforcement and initiating evacuation procedures.
However, not long after the dust literally settled, the FBI made Jewell a target of their investigation. He went from hero to lone bomber overnight.
Eastwood has always been an actor’s director. He’s well-known for maintaining a low-pressure environment on the set, and his approach brings naturalistic performances out of his all-star cast.
Paul Walter Hauser is amazing as Richard Jewell. Hauser plays Jewell as a man, not as a suspect in a crime story. We see Jewell’s dreams and ambitions shattered as he’s vilified in the national media. Kathy Bates is heartbreaking as Jewell’s mother, Bobi.
Her tearful speech at a press conference, begging law enforcement and even the president for her son to be exonerated could easily land Bates an Oscar nomination for Best
Supporting Actress. And Sam Rockwell’s portrayal as an attorney who refuses to be pushed around by the FBI is simultaneously riveting and laugh out loud funny.
Clint Eastwood can be hit or miss as a filmmaker. For every Mystic River or Million Dollar Baby, you get a Space Cowboys or Jersey Boys. But with Richard Jewell, the 89-year-old director is firing on all cylinders again.
So, take a break from holiday parties and Christmas shopping, and go see Richard Jewell. It opens in theaters everywhere on December 12th. I give it 4 out of 5 popcorn buckets.