Over the past decade or so, it's been rather unfortunate to watch four-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Clint Eastwood struggle to deliver a great film on the level that we've come to expect from him. After "Gran Torino" in 2008, he's given us mostly forgettable outings that have included "J.Edgar," "Hereafter," "American Sniper," "Jersey Boys," and "The 15:17 to Paris," with "Sully" standing out as a decent work among the rest. Now the legendary director returns with his latest project, "Richard Jewell," which once again has him bringing real-life events to the screen. Will this finally be his long-awaited return to greatness, or will it be yet another sour note in the prolific filmmaker's ever-growing filmography?
The film begins in the mid-80s, where we meet Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) as an office supply clerk at a law firm. However, he decides to leave in order to pursue a career in law enforcement, which unfortunately does not go as expected, leading him to be fired from his position of chief's deputy. In 1996, things aren't going much better for him in his position as a security guard at Piedmont College, where he is fired for overstepping his authority.
Now living in Atlanta with his mother, Bobi (Kathy Bates), he gets his next chance working security at an outdoor concert for the Olympics. During the event, he discovers a suspicious bag that turns out to contain a bomb, and ends up saving multiple lives by following protocol and helping move many of the attendees out of harm's way. Initially hailed as a hero, it's not long before the media and FBI label him as the prime suspect, turning his life upside-down. With the help of a lawyer, Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell), that he met back at the law firm, and his ever-faithful mother, he must weather the storm of accusations in order to clear his good name.
While his filmography has been rather sub-par of late, fans of Eastwood will be glad to hear that "Richard Jewell" marks his triumphant return to the great level of filmmaking we had become used to from the man who brought us great works like "Unforgiven," "Letters from Iwo Jima," and "Gran Torino." His latest project is a riveting tale about the persecution of an innocent man who saved multiple lives in an act of selfless bravory. This is one of those films that grabs you from the very beginning and keeps you hooked throughout the entire ordeal as Richard and co. have to deal with constant harrassment from the FBI and the media.
The screenplay, by Oscar nominee Billy Ray ("Captain Phillips"), skillfully takes you through these events, and when coupled with Eastwood's sure-handed direction, we end up sharing in the terrible feeling of how trapped and alone these people must have felt while going through this nightmare. Top that off with a powerful breakout performance from star Paul Walter Hauser, and excellent supporting work from Sam Rockwell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, and Kathy Bates (who earned the film's one Oscar nomination), and you have a film that flies by with a runtime of 131 minutes.
It may have taken over a decade for it to happen, but it's great to know that Eastwood is still capable of making films that are this captivating, where you can easily sympathize with the characters, and remain gripped in their situation until it finally lets up at the very end. "Richard Jewell" is a great tribute to an act of heroism that was wrongfully contorted into a witchhunt, and is a story that truly deserves to be told. Eastwood, along with his cast and crew, have done that marvelously, resulting in one of the very best films of 2019.
"Richard Jewell" comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. The film is beautifully sharp and clear throughout its 131-minute runtime, highlighting the extensive work that went into recreating the mid-90s setting it captures so well. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio delivers all of the dialogue, sound effects, and score in outstanding quality. Overall, Warner Bros. has done a great job with the film's home release, ensuring complete satisfaction in both areas.
The Making of Richard Jewell (7 Minutes): A short featurette that goes behind the scenes of the film, featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
The Real Story of Richard Jewell (7 Minutes): A brief look at the events that inspired the film, featuring interviews with the cast, crew, and some of the actual people involved.
With a thrilling and captivating story, as well as a fantastic ensemble topped with a powerful performance from Paul Walter Hauser, "Richard Jewell" is Clint Eastwood's long-awaited return to filmmaking greatness. Through Eastwood's remarkable direction and Billy Ray's well-crafted screenplay, the film brings these true-life events to the screen in such a manner that you'll be hanging on until the very end, making for one of the best films of last year.