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“Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell — based on a true story — is a well-made, well-acted picture about a clear act of injustice against an innocent man,” Time magazine’s movie critic Stephanie Zacharek begins. “So why does it leave such a sour aftertaste?”
Criticism of the new film stems from the same source: thin-skinned journalists. Our brave firefighters are always eager to trash every group of Americans. Evil CEOs, corrupt politicians (at least those with an R after their name), and the troglodytes in flyover country have been bombarded with weak accusations and bad faith as long as the news media has existed. But when anyone points the finger at their misdeeds, the press cries foul.
In real life, Jewell discovered a bomb at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park in 1996, saving the lives of many innocents. In a few days, he went from hero to public enemy number one due to FBI leaks and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s lousy reporting. Jewell died in 2007 at the age of 44.
In the era of St. Comey and “democracy dies in darkness,” casting these deeply flawed institutions as villains is an unpardonable sin.
Zacharek complains that Eastwood “shows particular vitriol and distaste” for the AJC reporter, Kathy Scruggs. Maybe because she’s a bad reporter who ruined a man’s life? Nah, couldn’t be.
“Scruggs — who died in 2001 — was a real person,” the reviewer says. “It’s telling that Eastwood makes her into the bigger cartoon, when she’s no longer here to defend herself.”
Much like Richard Jewell himself.