Review by Lucas Wunsch
Goodbyes are never easy. But The Old Man and The Gun provides everyone involved a way to say our farewells gracefully and on good terms. For Robert Redford, this will be (according to him) his last on-screen performance. And for us it’s a chance to say goodbye to Redford the character. The story of serial bank robber and prison escape artist Forrest Tucker is written and performed so well that there are certainly moments where you allow the natural good looks and charm of Redford and Tucker to blend together into one idea in your mind. And in doing so, Redford and writer/director David Lowery tip their caps to previous characters like Roy Hobbs or The Sundance Kid. The character of Tucker called for someone so smooth and charismatic that he could rob banks and somehow end up charming the folks he had robbed. With that in mind, nobody could have played this role better than Redford.
Redford is supported by an all-star cast including Danny Glover as a fellow robber, Casey Affleck as the deputy that pursues them and Sissy Spacek as the love interest who tries to lure Tucker away from his life of crime. Tom Waits and Elizabeth Moss also provide minor supporting roles, adding a bit of levity to what can often appear to be an absurd situation.
Despite its shorter run time, the movie manages to juggle three main stories rather well. Redford comes to terms with his age and even uses it to his advantage while stealing all that money. On the other side of the coin, you witness a bored and unmotivated Detective John Hunt (Affleck) find new life in his pursuit of the “Over the Hill Gang”. Finally, Redford and Spacek come together in a light-hearted love story which makes Tucker question his criminal pursuits and the endgame therein. Despite the many characters and themes at play, the story never feels forced or complex. The development of Redford’s character ties all three together very well.
Witnessing the execution of the robberies will give you a vicarious thrill, but not in the way you may expect due to the pacing of the film. Everything is very slow and gentle including the cuts and the score. For the first 2/3 of the movie there is no fast-paced or loud music and sound. In fact, there are only two instances in the entire film when any yelling takes place at all, and it’s not by any of the main characters. This pacing and mood-setting emphasizes Tucker’s perceived control of all of the situations he’s in, even in scenarios that we, as audience members, would find terrifying. This juxtaposition of tension really makes for an amazing feeling throughout the film and gives you a certain sense of satisfaction in joining Forrest on his adventures.
In the end, no more perfect swan song could have been written for Redford and what he has given to us throughout his more than 50 years on screen. This isn’t a fast-paced, shoot ‘em up bank robber movie. This is a smiling and happy goodbye from one old friend to another.
5 stars out of 5