The Old Man and the Gun - Review
Everything about The Old Man and the Gun is from another time. From grained cinematography to star Robert Redford, it is a type of film we do not often see. It places director David Lowery (A Ghost Story) alongside Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, and Cassey Affleck. A feat has already been accomplished when a relatively young director can piece together so many excellent parts into a working machine. As the follow up to 2017’s A Ghost Story, The Old Man and the Gun could not be more different. Lowery’s glamorous vision of the midwest 80s is filtered through brittle and tense relationships, and an almost Golden Age Western feel. The core of the film revolves around Forrest Tucker’s (Redford) and Jewel’s (Spacek) spontaneous relationship. Tucker is fleeing from the cops when he notices Jewel parked on the side of the highway, and with all the charm in the world, offers to help her out, despite admitting he knows little about cars. The connection the two form is the direct story, but there is a much more interesting one going on behind the curtain. Redford’s character is weathered, stuck in a relentless pattern that he’s relied on for too long. As his companions begin to lose hope, and eventually turn against him, Tucker is forced to decide whether or not he should change. A memorable scene involves Tucker being chased and captured in a field, holding up a finger gun to the cops who have him cornered. His world is hopeless, and often working against him, but like the film reminds us, he is smiling through it.
Director David Lowery is on a kick. This film has a fairly straightforward plot, but Lowery and his team turn it into a dreamlike movie-world that delights in one-off conversations, carefree dialogue, and genuinely funny moments. Tucker and his gang’s robbing of the Third Day Bank is made ridiculous by the presence of John Hunt (Affleck), the lead detective searching for Tucker and his “Over the Hill Gang”. Tucker and Hunt develop a friendly rivalry over the course of several robberies, and each take steps to out-embarrass the other. In the hands of these two actors, it is a genuinely thrilling dynamic. Not every joke lands, and the dialogue between Jewel and Forrest often comes across vague or cliche, betraying the magical pairing and authentic emotion between the two. The script seems to have been written with room for the leads to stretch, but perhaps it was too much room.
The Old Man and the Gun lives and dies on Robert Redford’s performance, and he doesn’t disappoint. He is still an outstanding dramatic actor, and in this film, uses his face to communicate more than he ever has. Jarring close ups and dozens of aesthetic landscape shots prominently feature Redford’s grizzled face, to the point where we can see the changes in it as the years progress. Dialogue is good, a bit cheesier than anything Lowery has directed, but this is a film that thrives on silence. Redford is the silent anchor at the heart of the story, and his performance is keeping with his recent bout of selective, meditative roles. There is not much to say about Redford’s performance that isn’t good. It is a perfectly designed part for an actor who needs no introduction, but feels like one nonetheless. It’s bittersweet, as this is said to be his last performance, and yet there is a perfect kind of melancholy to it that just feels right.