FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES (2018)
Director: David Lowery
Starring: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Tom Waits, Sissy Spacek
What a wonderful career.
With credits spanning five decades, it’s fair to say Robert Redford has been there, done it and got a fair few t-shirts to prove it. His latest flick, The Old Man & the Gun, is to be his last after the indie king declared his retirement from the silver screen and brings to an end a glittering career littered with top class movies, awards, festival formations, and even the Légion d'Honneur. A Ghost Story’s David Lowery had the task of directing Redford’s final movie and there’s a feeling of celebration hanging over the entire movie.
As the introduction lets you know, this is an “almost true story”, based on the life of career criminal Forrest Tucker – played by Redford here. First imprisoned aged fifteen, Tucker continued to rob banks until his late seventies and made a grand habit of escaping every prison that tried to hold him. The Old Man & the Gun treats Tucker like a charming, smooth old hand and the crimes are portrayed as caper and near-harmless as opposed to frightening – it’s all very leisurely, Lowery takes his time with the story and is no rush to get to the end, but when the movie is as enjoyable as this, then what’s the harm in that?
Together, Redford and Sissy Spacek – playing Tucker’s love interest Jewel - make it all look so easy and relaxed, years spent putting in the effort pays off in the long run and together the pair have a lovely, effervescent chemistry. Casey Affleck is in full grizzled mode as bedraggled cop John Hunt, a man looking for some excitement and relishing the chance to catch Tucker, all the while silently admiring the old hand - and the two are able to share a splendid scene together, thankfully. Tom Waits and Danny Glover make up Forrest’s team (known as the Over the Hill Gang) and whilst their roles are small, their presence still makes an impression.
Whilst the movie is set in the seventies and early-eighties, visually and tonally, it really feels like it was filmed and produced all those decades ago too. Shot on Super 16mm film, The Old Man & the Gun has a real vintage feel that complements everything else about it. Whilst Lowery takes a pedestrian approach in storytelling, it will be too slow or vanilla for some – my screening was entirely made up of cinemagoers all comfortably within Redford’s generation and that was telling. This is more a celebration of Redford, without being overly in your face, with old images of a younger Redford used as Forrest’s criminal shots and historical footage employed also and it all felt earned within the context of the story. Amongst all of the love, Lowery has crafted a feelgood story out of a rather strange foundation - thanks to the performances, the courtship of Forrest and Jewel, and the very good writing too.
In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, All the President’s Men, Ordinary People, Out of Africa, All Is Lost (and, of course, the marvellously titled Our Souls at Night), Robert Redford has left a lasting legacy on cinema. Add to that the fact he is the founder of Sundance Festival and it’s clear to see why he is so fondly regarded. Bringing the curtain down on a grand career, The Old Man & the Gun is a fitting finale in every way and is as enjoyable as Redford is charming and smooth throughout. Thanks for everything Robert, you kept smiling right to the end.
December 10th 2018