I know what local police do. They patrol our streets looking for unsafe drivers and discouraging mischief. They answer distress calls so victims of thievery and violence have an option other than fear or vigilantism. The mission of local police is to keep our communities orderly and safe and they do an outstanding job.
What about federal law enforcement, though? The FBI, the CIA, the ATF, the NSA? What do they do for us? Our country was running just fine before any of these organizations were even created. So what do we need them for?
Clint Eastwood – our greatest libertarian filmmaker – has directed a scathing anti-FBI film.
“Richard Jewell” tells the upsetting story of a good guy who was treated like a bad guy by America’s true bad guys.
In the early 90’s, Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) was an earnest Georgia do-gooder who hadn’t gotten the chance to do any good yet. He had worked a few rent-a-cop jobs, but his overzealousness hadn’t earned him any friends or promotions.
On July 27, 1996, Jewell was working security at a concert at Atlanta’s Centennial Park during the Olympics. He noticed an abandoned backpack under a bench. He called it a “suspicious package” and he was right. The pipe bomb killed two people but it would have killed dozens if Jewell hadn’t begun the evacuation process.
I definitely like this movie, but Clint Eastwood is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. The main villain is FBI agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm). He actually was at the Centennial Park concert like Richard Jewell. But Shaw wasn’t doing anything helpful. His job isn’t to protect and serve; his job is to bully and blame.
Initially, Richard Jewell is treated like the hero that he was. But because he fit an FBI “lone bomber” profile, the feds and the media turned against him and falsely accused him of the crime.
Even when the physical evidence objectively disproves their lone bomber theory, the FBI keeps coming after Jewell. Their job is to put suspects into the federal penitentiary, and they don’t let a little thing like the truth get in the way.
Paul Water Hauser is fantastic as Richard Jewell. With quiet strength, he expresses a range of awful emotions. He wants to believe that all law enforcement is good and wholesome. We watch as his life and his core values get shattered.
The world sees Richard Jewell as a fat bumpkin idiot. But Hauser plays him as a reasonably smart guy whose weakness is his blind respect for authority. By the end, he is forced to reckon with the unwelcome truth that he is a much better man than the federal agents who are working to destroy him.
The true hero is Jewell’s lawyer/friend Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell). He fights for his client when Jewell is too compliant to fight for himself.
Richard Jewell’s story had a happy ending. But Clint Eastwood gives us a lot to think about that isn’t so happy.
At one point, Jewell’s mother (Kathy Bates) pleads to Bill Clinton to step in and stop the investigation against his innocent son. But of course that didn’t happen. History has proven that the President of the United States isn’t nearly as powerful as federal law enforcement.
I don’t know exactly what the FBI, CIA, ATF, and NSA do for us. But I know what they are going to do to us. They are slowly turning America into an East German-style police surveillance state.