The Old Man and the Gun
Robert Redford has graced us with his presence on the silver screen since the 1960s. The film star also has had an adept career in directing (some would say, more successful than his acting), and it seems this side of his professional life is what he will focus on from now on. The Old Man and the Gun has been claimed, by Redford himself, to be his last acting role.
The Old Man and the Gun is the, mostly, true story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), a bank robber who became famed for his polite demeanor in asking tellers for money, and for his various prison breakouts during his life. The film picks off with a veteran Tucker in 1981 continuing to do what he does best.
The film is directed by David Lowery whose previous original outing was the divisive but poetic Ghost Story in 2017. The Old Man and the Gun certainly drops some of the more surreal elements of that last film, but Lowery nevertheless keeps his original style of shooting his characters. In some scenes where Redford is interacting with the romantic interest (played by a great Sissy Spacek), the camera seems to drift away turning to a somewhat unremarkable surrounding while the conversation continues lively on screen. It seems to be Lowery checking if we’re paying attention to what’s being said, instead of focusing on the film stars. In fact, throughout the film Lowery is constantly challenging viewers in the way they consume a story. In factual stories of today, a lot of attention is placed on the where and when; Lowery seems to tease us as he titles some scenes with the location and date even the exact minute, but then quickly cuts away so that it’s nearly impossible to read and process the information. It seems to be a comment on how the surrounding details and historicisms we look for are not important, the story and the characters are.
The film flourishes when it focuses on Redford, he is this film; and his scenes with Spacek are an absolute delight to watch. In another world, this story would have been told with young 20-somethings (the dialogue is certainly written that way), but the aged stars manage to give an equally passionate and energized performance (and shame on you if you ever doubted them). When the story does languish is when if focuses on Detective Hunt pursuing Tucker, played by Casey Affleck. Affleck seems to have been typecast into the depressed and low-energy characters; his Hunt, in this film, is just entering a mid-life crisis and seems to find it hard to give anything importance. Affleck seems to be cruising by the echoes of past and similar roles rather than delving too deep into this one.
The film certainly casts Tucker as a hero, and Lowery and Redford are effective in making you root for him. Nevertheless, I found it a bit tactless that the horrors of stealing at gunpoint were glossed over as if this was simply an old man’s bad habit. This perspective does provide some comedy throughout the story, but the fact that it remains unaddressed, is a bit morally unsatisfying.
In the end, Redford could not have gotten a more proper send off for his acting career. He brings forth his all, so that we get as powerful a performance (and infinitely more charming) as in the great J.C. Chandor film All is Lost. While we’ll still be graced with Redford’s directing skills, it’ll nevertheless be sad to say goodbye to that smirk and twinkle of his eye.