Director Clint Eastwood delivered yet another understated story about a regular Joe thrust into the spotlight due to unfortunate circumstances, only this time the fake news media gets a serious comeuppance, according to early reviews for the upcoming movie “Richard Jewell.”
Richard Jewell became a national hero during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, when he discovered a bomb planted in Centennial Park. Risking his own life, Jewell successfully helped to evacuate the area, saving countless lives before the bomb detonated. As a result of his heroic feats, only one person died in the blast (a second person later died of a heart attack) while 111 people were injured.
Though first hailed for his triumphant efforts, things quickly turned sour for Jewell the moment the media learned that the FBI was investigating him as a potential suspect, believing he may have planted the bomb himself in order to gain notoriety. As reported by Christian Toto of HollywoodInToto, early reviews indicate that Eastwood provides an unflinching look into the horrific three-month nightmare that Jewell endured until the FBI finally cleared him.
Writing at The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy noted that “Richard Jewell” actually takes a bold step in a different direction by portraying the journalists, in this case, as the bad guys. Typically, as in the case of “All the President’s Men” and “The Post,” journalists are heroes bravely speaking truth to power; in “Richard Jewell,” the journalists are bullies cowardly speaking lies for power.
“Most Hollywood films about journalism since ‘All the President’s Men’ 43 years ago have taken the free press’ side, portraying it as a scruffy if noble institution essential to the well-being of democracy,” wrote McCarthy. “Eastwood and screenwriter Billy Ray here take a rather different view of the Fourth Estate, portraying it as reckless, corrupt and immoral.”
“The mob of reporters covering the story resembles a plague of locusts, with any little tidbit being transformed into big news as the media tries to finger a culprit,” continued McCarthy. “Jewell, along with his mother, must endure this combination of attack and deprivation for three months until, finally, the FBI realizes that, from a purely logistical point of view, the young man couldn’t have physically pulled off what they believed he did.”
Writing at IndieWire, Ryan Lattanzio said both the media and the FBI are portrayed as the “bad guys not to be trusted” while commending the film for attempting to give Richard Jewell justice.
Clint Eastwood received a standing ovation when premiering the film at the AFI Fest this week.
The question now is whether or not reporters will appreciate the film. That depends entirely on whom you ask. Earlier this week, Kevin G. Riley, editor-in-chief for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution – the publication that first reported about Jewell being a suspect – wrote an email to TheWrap blasting the movie for portraying the publication in such a negative light.
“By publishing the story, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was the first to make the public, including Jewell’s own lawyer, aware of the government’s pursuit of Jewell as a suspect,” Riley argued. “The AJC’s leaders also recognized that law enforcement’s suspicions of Jewell were about to be made public whether or not the AJC published its story. The story placed law enforcement’s investigation in the public’s view and within its scrutiny.”