21 February 2020.
RICHARD JEWELL ***
Jewell by name and a jewel by nature. Richard Jewell is a an excellent film to add to the long list of Clint Eastwood’s excellent films and it is a credit to his energy, physical and mental, that at nearly ninety years old he is still able come up with productions like this one.
Taken from real events in the run-up to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta it is the story a man who saves the lives of many when a bomb goes off at a pre-games concert and very nearly pays for the act with his own life.
Meet Richard Jewell, superbly played here by Paul Walter Hauser. Not the most attractive of men, perhaps a little on the fat side, perhaps a little oddball, still lives at home with his mum and has a knowledgeable interest in weapons, police, military, law, etc, which is all perfectly peaceful and responsible but is almost obsessive. He would like to work in those fields but not having the right stuff he makes it only to being a modest security officer, finding jobs when he can. No one really listens to him and no one takes him seriously.
And then, as a security officer at the Olympics, he discovers a bag at the concert loaded with pipe bombs stashed underneath a bench. A lot of those meant to be taking care of security, including the police, don’t believe him at first and he finds himself almost singlehandedly moving the crowd into safety. They believe him when the bombs go off. Two people died and a lot were badly hurt but the toll would have been much higher had Richard Jewell not given the warning and not done what he did. By nature not the type to push himself to the front, he finds himself lauded as a national hero by the media.
And then the FBI arrive. In a hurry to find the bomber and abetted by psychological profilers who have never even seen Jewell they decide that he is their man. He’s just the type after all, they reckon. An investigation is started, the information is leaked to the press and Jewell’s life begins a downward spiral from being acclaimed as a hero to being hounded as a callous murderer. He’s in distress, his mum’s in distress, the TV stations are parked on his lawn and the FBI are looking for the evidence to put him on a capital charge. That’s the situation.
And then the cavalry comes in. A rogue lawyer, also superbly played in his maverick fashion by Sam Rockwell, takes up the case. He has nothing else to do after all, as his secretary reminds him. He knocks Jewell, who has difficulty not incriminating himself whenever he talks, into some kind of presentable shape, and he finally frightens away the FBI, whose dubious and sometimes downright dishonest methods he can see through.
If you think I have told you too much just wait. Perhaps I have, perhaps I haven’t. Perhaps there’s more. Whatever. Just go and watch it. It’s great entertainment. A very good film and congratulations to Clint, who I first got to know in 1959 in his Rawhide days. Worthy mentions too, for the excellent secondary roles. Kathy Bates as the pecan pie mum, Olivia Wilde as the over-eager reporter who’d sell her body for a scoop, John Hamm (ex Mad Men) as the FBI agent who gladly bought it, and Nina Arianda, the delicious little secretary who keeps Rockwell in check. Where did she get that Russian accent ?
A WHITE, WHITE DAY *1/2 (vo Icelandic)
I have always lauded the amazing cinema of Iceland, with such singular films as “Of Horses and Men”, “Rams”, or “Woman at War”. Films full of a gentle loneliness, another sort of human insight, bizarre fantasy and dry, quirky humor. So I was thrilled to catch this latest from that nordic land.
Unfortunately, this one has the cold, pale look but none of the charm or cleverness of those previous works. And the premise is downright glum, for a man has lost his wife to a car accident and then finds out that she may have had a lover. We have to endure his highs, lows and fury as he comes to terms with this revelation. It is tedious, draining and terribly whitish-grey.
(This has a similar theme to the far superior 2011 film “The Descendants” by Alexander Payne, with George Clooney.)
THE AERONAUTS *
This biopic, about a pioneering meteorologist and a female balloon pilot in the mid-1800s, is all overblown action, drama and soaring music that somehow falls flat. It swings from science to inflated romance while we watch Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones grapple with their instruments and their emotions as their balloon floats higher than ever before. But there is no real chemistry between them, and her climb to the top of the balloon is so incredible that it’s embarrassing.
If you’re desperate for entertainment this might work, but my mind kept wandering to more plausible thoughts and even my grocery list. That’s how thrilling it was. Poor Vincent Perez is relegated to a ghost of a husband. Oh well, this is an Amazon production. Bezos can afford it.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.