The 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, was perhaps the most anticipated, and most publicized event in the state’s history. I was living less than 50 miles away, and the publicity surrounding the event began many, many months before, during the “selection process” leading up to the big “It’s Atlanta!” announcement. I still have my “1996 Olympics” sweatshirt.
Those Olympics started on July 19th, with the unforgettable moment when Muhammad Ali lit the cauldron. Days later, it would be another man, Richard Jewell, who would be in for the fight of his life. On July 27th, mid-way through the Games, a bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park, killing one woman, and injuring 111 people. Only minutes before the explosion, Richard Jewell, working as a security guard, had spotted the abandoned green knapsack that contained the bomb, and had called it to the attention of the police, before attempting to move visitors away. He would be praised for his actions, which saved many lives.
However … you know the story … within 3 days … word “leaked out” that it was, in fact, Richard Jewell who had been named as the suspect … the bomber …
What followed is what Mr. Jewell called, in interviews later, “88 days of hell.” He would also compare the media’s constant hounding of him to a frenzy of piranhas.
I remember Richard Jewell, and “all this” from the Atlanta Olympics. I know “the games” were going on, but it seemed like “all the talk” was about Richard Jewell … and, how guilty he was.
Heck … I remember thinking he was guilty. Why wouldn’t I? After all, we could trust the media.
It was all you heard about … the biggest news … not only about Richard Jewell, but “why he did it.” I mean … the newspapers called him guilty, he was the only FBI suspect, so the government called him guilty … you can trust both of those, can’t you??? So, I remember there being “no doubt” they had gotten their man.
The movie: Great.
Carol and I left the theater with tears. Now, a few days later, Carol just said, “I felt so bad for him.” There some funny moments, too. Directed by Clint Eastwood, this isn’t the first movie by Clint Eastwood, based upon true events, which show what a genius film-maker he is. The movie is Rated R, for good reason. Bad language.
Perhaps most remarkable is the performance of Paul Walter Hauser as Richard Jewell:
And … Cathy Bates plays his mother!
Sam Rockwell plays Richard’s lawyer, Watson Bryant.
Jon Hamm delivers a powerful-believable performance as FBI agent Tom Shaw, and Olivia Wilde stars as AJC reporter Kathy Scruggs.
From what I have been reading, there are only a couple of things put in the movie which were added, but not very much.
It was very, very difficult to watch this movie, and what was happening “right in front of my eyes” on the screen without thinking about what is happening “right in front of our eyes” today. It was just difficult not to see the resemblance between some things which were happening then, and what is happening now.
I’m referring to the “media frenzy” and “government” part. While I feel like I need to be careful about what I write, I must also write how I felt. I saw, played out on the screen, a true story of what happens when the media, and the government combine against a “common foe.”
There were some really great lines in this movie, as you would guess. I’ll just mention two lines which really resonated with me, as I sat there, trying to “enjoy” the movie (which I did, immensely), and not “look around” at the events happening now.
Richard Jewell was innocent, and, because he was innocent, he didn’t realize just how much trouble he was in. He didn’t do it, and he knew he didn’t do it. His attorney knew this, too. However, in an effort to try to get his client to understand how serious this was, his attorney (Watson Bryant) told him to think about this:
“You are facing the two most powerful forces on earth.
The government and the media.”
Another statement was made by Watson Bryant’s girlfriend (who later became his wife), Nadya Light (played by Nina Arianda). In the movie, it is obvious she is from a foreign country. She made this statement, which I couldn’t shake:
“In my country, when the government says you are guilty, it means you are innocent.”
Mr. Jewell made a statement toward the end of the movie. His concern was that now, because of what happened to him, if someone else was in the exact, same situation as he was in at Centennial Park, that he was afraid that person would be afraid to act, because of what had happened to him.
I have the same kind of concern about someone trying to make the decision to run for public/political office today. I’m afraid that because of “the way it is out there,” people who are genuinely qualified for the job, and would do a great job, won’t want to do it, because of the “way it is.”
I know there may be a lot of people who may not like this movie, like, perhaps, the government, and, perhaps the media … but, that in itself makes its own statement.
Do I recommend this movie?
Yes … because it reminds us all, not just of what happened … but, what could happen.
Here’s a trailer from the movie “Richard Jewell,” which also features Clint Eastwood: