Richard Jewell

Richard Jewell

Think 1996. The explosion at the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta has killed innocents. The press has made Richard Jewell a hero throughout the country. Suddenly, the press labels Jewell the bomber and we watch him turn from hero to criminal in seconds on the front pages.

Two things stamp the movie – Richard Jewell – with quality. Nothing is spared in creating both the explosion and the aftermath. Drawing on the always increasing new techniques of cinematic creation, the filmmakers drop us into the hideous reality of what happened in Atlanta two decades ago. An explosion turns the merry festival into chaos. We are drawn in by the noisy fun of the spectators who had chosen to spend their day at the Games. They have come with pride that their city had been chosen and our time spent with them during their pre-blast fun has deepened our dread of the explosion we know is about to come.

Casting is the second positive. Walter Hauser creates security guard Richard Jewell with such consistency that we are in his pocket as he moves from being hero to bomber in the headlines. After that, his certainty of his own innocence allows him to remain just who he is. His naivety is never compromised. He is a blend of truth and ordinariness. He may be dull but he is decent, honest, and often self-defeating.

In the movie’s top performance, actor Kathy Bates becomes Jewell’s mother. As she creates Bobi Jewell, she never overacts and we understand on a deep level both her love of her son and the certainty that this love won’t be tarnished even if he is guilty. She would be hurt, but still full of love. The movie lifts each time she appears, even when she is silent.

Actor Sam Rockwell creates Watson Bryant, the understated quiet lawyer acquaintance of Richard Jewell who stands by his friend. Lawyer Bryant is a quiet fellow who rises to the demands when his friend Jewell is under attack. The movie is strengthened by the truth that we are watching two men who remain genuine, each in his own character.

Nadya Light becomes Nina Arianda, manager of Bryant’s low key office life. She enriches the movie with each of her infrequent appearances until we find ourselves looking forward to each appearance of her character. She creates a woman who wins us entirely.

The weakness here lies in the FBI characters whose approach to the case seems ridiculous and whose characters are not the least bit smart. Nearly on a par with the greedy, angry, competitive press, they make us hope the FBI can’t be quite as bad as they are here.

A city proud to be hosting the Olympics, citizens loving their own participation in the pre-explosion holiday, a handful of good actors creating the tragedy of a man and those who stand by him – that’s the good part. Weak acting here and there leaves us stuck in reality.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Richard Jewell
Word Count : 501
Running Time : 2:26
Rating : R
Date : 22 December 2019

This entry was posted on December 15, 2019, in Drama.

Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari

If you avoided seeing Ford v Ferrari because you aren’t interested in car racing, you might just reconsider. Why did I avoid it? Car racing and all-male casts have never drawn my interest. How could an audience be held in suspense for two and a half hours of men speeding around in circles to a deafening soundtrack? Yet finally, there I was in the movie, on that track, rooting for the good guys.

During a five-year sales slump at the Ford Motor company, designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) begins to wonder how to make the Ford badge stand for victory rather than loss. When he confronts Ford president Henry Ford II with the need for dramatic change – “You can’t win a race by committee,” Shelby lures Ford into a dramatic shift in the company culture.

When Shelby turns to driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), the movie soars into high gear. It is Bale’s superb performance as a race car lover that lifts both the movie and the audience into another world. His love of racing is driven by more than passion. It’s obsession. Miles, a good human being, becomes a man driven by this in a way few of us have ever seen or felt. His is a superb passage from determination to success. Christian Bale’s creation of this character is sublime.

As we watch this driver, we learn he has an astonishingly fine wife, Mollie (Caitrona Balf), and a young son Peter (Noah Jupe) who is already in love with racing. In their touching performances, these actors create a family of three who audiences come to love. Though their family story doesn’t dominate the film, they deliver a rare and beautiful portrait of a family where each supports the other. The beauty comes as we begin to understand the mutual love among the three in spite of the danger and preoccupation of the husband/father. It’s not ordinary to see family love as subtle as this.

This story explores men to their cores. Drivers are passionate competitors. Businessmen are successful bores like Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts). Watch quiet, capable actor Matt Damon eat away at Henry Ford’s business personality as he lures him to the core of love for racing. Damon creates a tough, controlled ex-racer who infects Ford with the excitement of breaking all the rules of his business.

This is a cast that manages to take a theater that is bursting with roaring sound into a deep well of caring for all the characters. Writers/brothers Jez and John Henry Butterworth and director James Mangold have created a film that is a magical creation of racing as an assortment of men, car parts, money, driving genius, and obsession. These details are given us with such skill that we non-racers finally understand what it is like to become a body moving through space and time at 7000 RPM. That happens because there is not one mediocre acting performance in the whole story.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Ford v Ferrari
Word Count : 499
Running Time: 2:32
Rating : PG-13
Date : December 8, 2019