If you need charm in your film, no actor can bring it finer than Robert Redford, if you don’t believe me go watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and tell me otherwise. Redford has had quite the career and now it all comes to an end with his final role in The Old Man & the Gun. Despite knowing this would be Redford’s last role also and that the film is directed by David Lowery, who surprised me with Pete’s Dragon (also starring Redford) and shocked me with A Ghost Story, I knew very little about it. Essentially this was a blind viewing and what you first notice is how instantaneously charming it feels, and because it never breaks the charm, it makes the film and Redford’s last role fantastic to witness.
Robert Redford plays longtime bank robber Forrest Tucker who unlike other criminals uses his happy gentlemen like personality to make his hostages comply and remember him with fondness. At the heart of the film is this character, his charm never disappears from the spotlight and it feels like your approval of the film is completely dependent on liking this character. Fortunately, Robert Redford’s performance is more than likeable, it captures your attention from the moment the character is introduced with infinite wit.
Casey Affleck is the next standout performance as John Hunt, a cop assigned to track Forrest down. This character shines when he is surrounded by his family, his children even assist in helping him. We see at the beginning he’s down in the dust but still being the best family man he can be, and when he is given the task to track Forrest, he bursts into dedication which Affleck nails.
David Lowery is a director I have to remind myself to pay attention to, he seems to have already mastered consistency in tone and nailing down his style of film presentation, what became increasing noteworthy is the way Lowery uses a lot of soft and minimalist cinematography techniques from focus to lighting, which was previously seen in A Ghost Story. Simplicity is a powerful and appreciated tool which often has the intention of beauty. This is arguably unintentional in The Old Man & the Gun, but it does it anyway. All in all, it makes The Old Man & the Gun a much more relaxing, appreciative watch.
The narrative is nothing new once you get down to the bones of it, however, I got the sense that this story somehow shared some relation to an old Western narrative of which Robert Redford has appeared numerous times in. For followers of Redford’s career, you do begin to notice the film celebrating him by borrowing elements of his previous films, the film announces at the beginning that this story is “mostly true”, a callback to the opening text of Butch Cassidy. But the western part of this film ties in with the subtle tragedy of Forrest. He knows that he can retire from his life of crime, but he chooses to because it’s a way of living life he enjoys. His love interest Jewel (Sissy Spacek) has the purpose of showing that he can live an honest life, which is seen beautifully in a scene that takes place in a jewellers. I choose to identify this as a modern western because there is no other perfect description for it and I appreciate all the more.
Now while I appreciate the focus on Forrest, it takes it’s focus a little bit too far, to the point where it neglects events in the film that we are expected to accept that it just happened. For instance, Forrest and his gang which consist of Teddy (Donald Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits) are preparing for one of their more audacious back jobs. We see their preparation, but we don’t see the actual heist, which doesn’t go smoothly. With each bank robbery, Forrest becomes increasingly likeable, but we’ve only seen him pull off successful heists, imagine how much depth it would add to his character when he’s put in a situation that doesn’t go according to plan. What would be revealed? how would he react? We’ll never know.
Teddy and Waller could have been broader I felt. The film establishes these three men have been robbing banks for a long time together and through their interactions, we can tell that they’re like friends to Forrest. However, it is never shown as much. Again, bringing it back to what happens when Forrest is pushed to the edge instead of things going exactly as planned, and even when it doesn’t go according to plan, he’s still the same man, he never breaks his moral code, which I would have loved to see for a happy-go-lucky man.
If you want to see this film to say goodbye to one of the Hollywood greats, then The Old Man & the Gun is a beautiful farewell. But even if you’re not here to say farewell, the film will still leave a big impression on you because of the initial strength of the lead character. Forrest Tucker is the man of the moment and you’ll quickly fall in love with his kindness and even forget that he is a criminal. There are films throughout history that have been defined by one word, The Old Man & the Gun is one of those films. Charming.
Farewell Robert Redford and thank you for your impeccable acting.
Final Result: 7/10 – Good
Have you seen The Old Man & the Gun? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
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