MOVIE REVIEW: Richard Jewell

“Richard Jewell” tells a story that needed to be brought to the silver screen. Based on true events, this film follows one man as he goes from a national hero to a potential suspect overnight. Clint Eastwood returns to solid form as the man behind the camera after leaving little to be desired with his last two projects, “The 15:17 to Paris” and “The Mule”, in this stark retelling of the infamous 1996 Centennial Park Bombing that killed 2 individuals, injured over 100 others, and mentally scarred the nation and prestige of the Summer Olympics. Outside of the bombing, Eastwood focuses on the role of the mass media and federal government agencies, such as the FBI, who attempted to railroad one man’s life and perception to the greater society just for doing his job.

Paul Walter Hauser gives a heavyweight performance as the titular character that will impress many unknowing eyes who have not had the chance to see him do magic as a supporting character in films such as “I, Tonya” and “BlacKkKlansman”. He hits every mark necessary to carry the film while making the viewer sympathetic to the hellish plight he endures. An everyday man who is so passionate about becoming a part of law enforcement that he studies the penal code every night, Jewell shows ambition by taking on any kind of security job that could potentially get him recognized by a police agency. It’s all the more tragic once he is stamped as the main suspect in the eyes of the same federal agency he dreamed about joining. The stress and pain he goes through is not just endured by him but also by his strong mother Bobi (Kathy Bates). Bates is powerful in depicting the collateral damage that a mother deals with when it comes to their child being seen as a monster instead of the sweet and caring person she has seen all her life. She delivers a powerful monologue in the final act that drives home her heartache of seeing what society has done in painting Richard as a “frustrated white man prone to carrying out a bomb threat”. Sam Rockwell finally breaks the pattern of being in a film where he comes across as a flaming racist or Nazi by giving a commendable performance as lawyer and friend to Jewell, Watson Bryant, who keeps him from falling victim to the deception and mind games of the FBI’s investigation and his circle of family and friends.

For all of its great performances, there is one character depiction that does not sit well with me. Olivia Wilde’s role as reporter Kathy Scruggs, shown as willing to be somewhat “sensual and promiscuous” in order to gain information about who the FBI is targeting in the bombing case, is not what I have an issue with. The issue lies in that the character was not written or portrayed accurately to the real-life Kathy. I have a big problem when filmmakers take liberty in defaming people while retelling historical events. There is a difference between a director leaning into an alternate history for the sake of entertainment and wrongly depicting a real-life person to make a statement about the scandalous nature of the media. It is not fair to that person (especially one like Kathy who is deceased and cannot defend herself) or their loved ones and serves as an elephant in the room that cheapens the realism of this compelling narrative.

The role of the media and the FBI in the witch hunt and railroading of Jewell is thoroughly examined. Throughout history, there have been cases of innocent people who fall victim to being unfairly accused and sentenced to prison for crimes they did not commit. In the last decade, a big movement has started in opening up old cases files, retrying court cases, and using DNA evidence to free many people who have been locked away under the jurisdiction of correctional facilities and the federal government. The importance of a dramatic film like this is that it provides a way to look back on a dark time in society and encourage us to work towards not letting events like this happen again. A man’s life was forever changed by an act of good faith, instead of being lauded as a hero he was questioned and scrutinized by the media looking for a headline and the FBI looking for a scapegoat. At times, Eastwood drills this message in so hard that it could be considered “preaching”. The media and the FBI seem to have no redeemable traits and are painted as straight villains. Both are certainly guilty in this case, but every scene seems to take a thinly veiled shot at the government and the media, looking to undermine their integrity at every corner.

“Richard Jewell” is an important and sobering look into how mass media and the federal government’s need for a villain affected the life of a man who should have been immediately recognized as a national hero to admire. The film moves at a brisk pace and is always engaging, with the exception of some time confusion in the middle act. Supported by strong performances, this mostly accurate retelling of the 1996 Centennial Park bombing is a drama that will open a lot of eyes to an area of American history that needs to be shown to the world.

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Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Report

“The Report” is a mandatory and sobering look into the numerous unlawful violations and devaluing of humanity that occurred in the CIA’s Detention and Intelligence Program during the United States’ post-9/11 “War on Terror.” Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), a Senate staffer, is tasked with the job of investigating the CIA and uncovering their countless injustices, which tests his own emotional fortitude and belief in the hierarchy he occupies. The film offers an inside look into the dirty game of politics and how distrustful our own government has been about being forthcoming with their own citizens.

Scott Z. Burns, who served as both writer and director, holds nothing back in exposing the truth, while also pacing this story in a fluid manner that will command your attention. “The Report” plays out more like a documentary than a feature film thanks to an engrossing sense of realism and the rock-solid acting performances all-around. Adam Driver is having a tour de force of 2019, and this film just adds to his immense hot streak by way of a commanding performance steeped in determined heroism. Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Michael C. Hall, Tim Blake Nelson, and Maura Tierney round out an excellent supporting cast and each adds nuance and credibility to the story being expressed on screen.

“The Report” will likely make your blood boil over how the federal government has operated in the name of “protecting our country”, but films like this should be championed for telling the stories that many would rather be kept in the closet.

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Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

MOVIE REVIEW: Bad Times at the El Royale

 


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: Tag

TAG (2018)

1 Hour and 40 Minutes (R)

Chris and Beef, two of the ten real life Tag Brothers (as they affectionately refer to themselves), opened my screening of the film by informing the audience of two things. First, much of what we were about to see really happened. In their 30 years of playing Tag the group frequently ran over innocent bystanders in hallways, used deception, wore costumes, and even had spouses sell them out to each other. And second, but most importantly, playing Tag wasn’t about the competition. It was about human connection and friendship.

That’s very sweet and all, but this is a comedy, and competition is funnier than brotherly love. The film spends its opening getting us right into the action. We’re introduced to the characters through, what else, efforts by one or more of them to tag another. Throughout the film these sequences are awesomely done. Often with a perfectly fitting rock or hip-hop song in the background, the action is fast, comical, and most of the time very believable. When the guys go after their nemesis Jerry (Jeremy Renner), however, the camera goes into slow motion and becomes ultra-stylized with Jerry narrating the attack is it progresses in the manner of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes putting clues together to solve a case. This heightening of senses does a great job of highlighting the fact that Jerry, who has never ever ever EVER been tagged, is truly a god among men when it comes to their game.

The cast as a whole does a great job of capturing who the guys grew up to be as adults, while also allowing for cinematic liberty to spice things up a bit. Randy (Jake Johnson) is the typical grungy stoner who can’t hold down a job or relationship and is too blunt (pun intended) for his own good. Callahan (Jon Hamm) is a successful CEO that hasn’t lost that childish aloofness and has a fake confidence behind his gorgeous face. Sable (Hannibal Buress) is the least defined as a character, but perhaps the most hilarious, dropping random philosophical thoughts and laugh-inducing observations on the regular. And the leader of the pack, the relentless and super competitive Hoagie (Ed Helms), perfectly shows us that part of our nature that refuses to lose to our friends and is driven to hold the group together at the same time. He’s the glue of the Tag Brothers clan and fittingly receives the most emotionally complete arc. The women in the film also bring some added flavor, primary among them Hoagie’s wife Anna (Isla Fisher). She is super intense and as close to being part of the group as she can be, since an amendment to the game made it illegal for girls to join. She’s honestly the most memorable character of all and if she was to lead the rest of the ladies of the film in an estrogen-fueled sequel, I’d be all in for that.

If the film has a weakness, it is, for me at least, an over reliance on the potty and sexual humor commonly found in R-rated comedies these days. For sure, much of the dialogue here is probably how the guys talked, but it felt like the script pushed it overboard a few times, especially one recurring joke that involves the mother of one of the boys. Toning that back so that Tag could have been a more family-friendly affair wouldn’t have hurt the film at all. It also starts to feel a little bit long right as it begins to wrap things up. This was expected, though, as the film shines best in its tag sequences and that can only fill up so much of the space. Being able to relate to the characters was a huge plus. Scenes of them reuniting, rediscovering their childhood hangouts, making up new rules to their game on the fly, and generally expressing affection for each other silently through their competition felt very personal. Something about how these men stayed close into adulthood really connects, and I won’t be surprised at all if this film sparks games of Tag among friends all over the world, probably leading to plenty of injuries.

VERDICT

Unfortunately, I couldn’t see Tag with the tight-nit group of childhood friends I grew up with, the many brothers that I made while spending a career in the U.S. Navy, or even my closest adult friends, all of whom I could imagine playing this game with me. But I did see it while seated next to the person I’ve been most competitive with in my life, and the one overpowering thought in my mind as the credits rolled was to slap her on the shoulder, leap over a row of theater seats, and sprint out of the theater as fast as I could. Honestly, I wish that I had. After all, as Benjamin Franklin said, “We don’t stop playing when we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

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Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 065: Baby Driver

Join us this week for a unique and special recording of the Feelin’ Film Podcast as we record live side-by-side for the first time ever. Not only that, but we also have an awesome guest with us, Chad Hopkins the host of The Cinescope Podcast, to help us talk though Edgar Wright’s musical mayhem of a film, Baby Driver. This episode is recorded directly after we leave the theater so it’s unlike any you’ve heard from us before. We hope you enjoy as we geek out over fast cars, rockin’ tunes, and style style style.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:04:11

(Aaron –  Cruise)
(Patrick – Indie games)
(Chad – Batman v Superman, Breaking Bad)

Baby Driver Review – 0:14:32

The Connecting Point – 0:55:14

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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