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Film / Richard Jewell

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"His accusers are two of the most powerful forces in the world. The United States Government, and the media."
Watson Bryant

Richard Jewell is a 2019 biographical drama directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Billy Ray.

It tells the true story of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Bombings, where a local security guard named Richard Jewell discovered a bomb and alerted the authorities. Initially hailed as a hero, Jewell eventually became a suspect and subject to investigation from the media and the FBI, and finds himself having to fight back with the help of a friend who is an attorney.

The movie stars Paul Walter Hauser as the protagonist and titular character, along with Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Olivia Wilde, and Jon Hamm. The movie was released on December 13, 2019 in the United States.

Previews: Trailer.

Richard Jewell contains examples of:

  • Adapted Out: Sam Rockwell's character Watson Bryant is a Composite Character of several different lawyers who worked with Jewell, including the Real Life Bryant as well as Lin Wood.
  • All a Part of the Job: Jewell's response to initial reactions that he's a hero. When a show wanted to interview him, he immediately says he wasn't the only one who should be thanked, as there were the other officers, the bomb squad, and the first responders.
  • Anti-Climax:
    • After a few months of putting Jewell's life through hell, Shaw enters a diner where Jewell and Watson are having a meal and nonchalantly gives him a brief letter saying he's no longer a suspect. No big press conference, no apology from Shaw- in fact, Shaw is still convinced he's guilty as hell. Jewell even has to ask Watson if it's truly over, and Watson has to reassure him that they won.
    • When the real bomber is caught, it's handled simply by Watson approaching Jewell at his workplace and informing him that he's been captured.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: At Jewell's final interview with the FBI, he's asked a question by Agent Shaw. Rather than answering as he usually does, Jewell asks a question right back: Does the FBI have any genuine evidence that shows he did it? Shaw is unable to answer.
  • Basement-Dweller: Richard Jewell still lives with his mother. Although he's a pretty functional adult regardless, Kathy Scruggs is amused that he does so, and it only aids the FBI's profile against him.
  • Biopic: of Richard Jewell.
  • Broken Pedestal: Being put on blast by the FBI as a suspect in the bombing eventually causes Jewell to lose his awe for federal law enforcement, stating that he used to see them as the pinnacle of justice, and admits to Agent Shaw's face he might not see it that way anymore.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Jewell, very much so. This actually comes in handy when he discovers the suspicious backpack, as the local police just want to give it to the lost and found, at first rather than go through protocol of calling in the bomb squad.
  • Call-Back: At the start of the film, when Jewell tells Watson he's leaving the firm to become a security guard, Watson gives him $100, on the condition that he not become a Dirty Cop. Later in the film, after Jewell has become a suspect in the bombing, Watson jokingly asks for the $100 back.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Jewell is warning everyone in the guard tower to evacuate because of the suspicious backpack, most of them shrug it off. One of them even gives a reason: There are bomb threats all the time, why is this one any different? Granted, when Jewell comes back and confirms it is a real bomb, they decide to believe him and leave without question.
  • Composite Character: The FBI agent Tom Shaw is fictional and based on mutliple differents agents from Real Life.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: As in real life, the suggestion that Jewell planted the bomb caused the masses to harass him.
  • Crusading Lawyer: Watson.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Jewell is a master of accidentally reinforcing the FBI's idea that he's a psychotic police wannabe that engineered the whole thing. After a while, the only advice Watson keeps giving Jewell is to just stop talking to the police and FBI entirely.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Jewell, while accompanying the FBI agents to what he's told is a recording for a training video, is accosted by reporters outside his home who are asking questions about whether he's a suspect, or has been told to leave town. Jewell just simply answers "no" to their questions without realizing the extent to what they're implying. And when someone asks if he's under investigation he replies "Well, I assume they're investigating everybody who was at the park."
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Jewell goes through a lot of crap, but is ultimately able to ride out the media circus, land his dream job as a police officer, and live long enough to see the real bomber be arrested.
  • Engineered Heroics: Jewell is accused of planting the bomb, then "discovering" it and warning everyone so he can be hailed as a hero.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Jewell knowing that Watson likes Snickers because of spotting used Snickers wrappers in his trash can. This sets up that Jewell has high attention to detail, which helps him notice the suspicious backpack a few scenes later.
    • Kathy Scruggs mocks her journalist comrades for the fact that her juicy crime stories overshadow their articles, then flips off the office, establishing her as an obnoxious hotshot.
  • Extreme Doormat: Watson accuses Jewell of this later in the film, essentially telling him that he's being too accommodating to an organization that's invading his privacy. He tells him to get angry at his situation; while he never has a Rage Breaking Point, he does finally stand up for himself in the final FBI interview.
  • Flashback Nightmare: Jewell gets one of these where he not only discovers the bag was a bomb, but also grabs it and yells as it explodes, all of which is preluded by the ticking of the bomb's timer, ending with it ringing.
  • Foreshadowing: Twice in the film, Jewell has brief chest pain but quickly recovers. This foreshadows his death of heart failure at only 44 in the epilogue.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The real bomber, Eric Rudolph, is obviously the one who triggers the story, but he doesn't have any effect on the plot after blowing up the park until the very end and the story focuses on Jewell's struggle with the media circus.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Kathy pulls one when she actually makes the walk from Jewell's confirmed location to the pay phone where the 911 call was placed, and realizes he couldn't have made it in time. She tries to convince Shaw of her findings, and he responds that he already figured it out. Instead of believing Jewell is innocent, however, Shaw feels the only thing it proves is he had an accomplice.
  • Heroic Wannabe: This is Jewell's general portrayal in the movie. Before the Games, he's shown bullying rowdy students at his job at campus security, and we hear that he's even impersonated an officer. He proves to be Properly Paranoid during the games, but before that we see him being suspicious of completely innocent people.
  • Historical Relationship Overhaul: Real-life journalist Kathy Scruggs is portrayed as sleeping with fictional FBI Agent Tom Shaw in order to glean information about the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. No such affair ever happened.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The film was subject to controversy for its portrayal of real-life journalist Kathy Scruggs, who is presented as actively trying to vilify Jewell in an attempt to further her own career. A major plot-point involves her seducing Agent Shaw in exchange for information about Jewell and the bombing, despite there being no evidence or record of any such tryst happening in real life.
  • Jump Scare:
    • The moment when the bomb goes off.
    • The viewer gets to see it go off again at the final interview with the FBI, when Richard gets told to remember what happened that night.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Immediately after the bombing, the local police, ATF, and FBI all argue whose case this is. The FBI wins out.
  • Karma Houdini: In the film neither the media nor the FBI are shown having to answer for their actions. In real life, this was played depressingly straight for the FBI, but not for Kathy Scruggs. The case, and her reporting, ended up tarnishing her reputation, and she never recovered. She died of a suspected drug overdose in 2001.
  • Mad Bomber: The film is centred around the aftermath of the real-life 1996 Olympic bombing, though the true bomber is only briefly seen and not named until the ending.
  • Media Scrum: Jewell repeatedly faces mobs of reporters as the investigation continues.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Jewell's hounding by the media and FBI is a notorious case.
  • Momma's Boy: Richard Jewell is one, which the media picks up on, but Bobi Jewell does all she can to defend him, and even pleads with then-president Bill Clinton on live television to halt the reckless investigation of her son.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Kathy, after she realizes that Jewell couldn't have done it and she printed libel about an innocent man.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Indeed. Jewell undoubtedly saved countless lives by alerting people to the bomb and moving them away. His heroic actions result in the FBI suspecting him of having planted it and making his life hell.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Watson is repeatedly irritated when he finds out about something unfavorable from Jewell's past (such as impersonating an officer) that only reinforces the narrative that the FBI and media have made of him. One of the worst ones is when Watson tells Jewell to make sure any weapons he owns are visible and unhidden during the FBI search, and Jewell pulls out a veritable arsenal of high-powered guns.
    Watson: Were you anticipating a zombie invasion?
  • Period Piece: The film is set in 1996, with characters using period-appropriate technology. At one point during the festival, the crowd are shown doing the Macarena.
  • Properly Paranoid: Jewell has a very good sense of when he's in danger.
    • At the Centennial Olympic Park, he finds a suspicious backpack and insists on following protocol and forming a perimeter despite the cops thinking it's just some drunk teens' beer-filled bag. Then the bomb guy finds the pipe bombs. One cop promptly states that he's never giving Jewell shit for anything ever again.
    • When the FBI tries to dupe Jewell into waiving his Miranda rights so they can interrogate him without a pesky lawyer getting involved, Jewell gets suspicious about their actions and calls in Watson.
  • Protagonist Title: The movie is titled Richard Jewell, and follows the titular character as he is accused of being a Mad Bomber.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: A small one but it's there: Meeting with the FBI once last time, Shaw again grills and rants about how Jewell had to be the one who placed the bomb or must have had an accomplice. Jewell however asks rather bluntly if the FBI has any actual evidence to arrest him and proceeds to eviscerate Shaw and the FBI for focusing so much on proving he put the bomb when all it will do is make people be afraid of preventing attacks like what happened. Shaw immediately has nothing else to say and Jewell concludes they are done and leaves, with Watson knowing they won.
  • Skewed Priorities: The FBI starts wondering if Jewell had an accomplice, which turns into a rumor that his "accomplice" and he are gay lovers. At the final interview, Jewell is initially more concerned about dispelling the rumors that he's gay than to clear his name. He quickly gets focused, though.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Watson warns Jewell of letting a little power get to his head. Years later, we see that Jewell has indeed embellished his authority as a campus cop after getting fired from other law enforcement jobs for much the same reason. Notably, after his heroic act of kickstarting the evacuation and getting heaps of praise, Jewell is quite humble and tries to direct praise away from himself and towards other emergency personnel.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Sully, another Clint Eastwood film. Both are biopics, and both about people who are initially acclaimed as heroes but are scrutinized in short order. Sully less so, since there were no fatalities due to his actions and wasn't railroaded by the FBI, but he still got formally questioned about if he could've done things differently.
  • Time Skip: The film begins in 1986 with Jewell and Watson's first encounter, with the main narrative being ten years later in 1996. The film's final scene takes place six years after this.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Jewell befriends Watson by noticing several Snickers wrappers in his trash can and refilling his stock.
  • Twisting the Words: Kathy twists the words of her informant that Richard was a suspect to make him look guilty.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Three texts appear on the screen before the closing credits: One tragic (the death of Jewell at only 44), the other two uplifting (Watson and Nadya marrying and having kids, with Barbara babysitting them).

"They want to fry you. You ready to start fighting back?"