David Lowery/ USA/ 2018/ 93 mins
@Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 7 Dec 2018
Robert Redford has had a long and storied career as an actor, starring in some of the most well regarded films of the 20th century and cementing himself as something of a legend. As such, The Old Man & the Gun – the ‘mostly true’ story of the charismatic bank robber, Forrest Tucker and the ‘Over the Hill Gang’ who, at the age of 70, robbed a series of banks in the 1980’s – is perhaps the perfect send off for this venerable actor.
The Old Man & the Gun is an incredibly sleek and well-made film that emanates its early 80’s aesthetic, even if its heavy use of archive footage to establish time is somewhat on-the-nose. While the title of the film is a relatively simple one, and one might argue that it is an equally simple film, that is perhaps its greatest strength. There is a surprising amount of depth in what is ultimately a character piece that borders on a one-man show. Redford is truly phenomenal in his portrayal of Tucker, perfectly capturing the charm and charisma that made the real bank-robber so notable, and meaning that one cannot help but be won over in everything that he does.
As the focus rarely strays from Tucker, it does not leave much room for Redford’s co-stars to really shine. However, that is not to say that the other actors do not give worthwhile performances, with Sissy Spacek’s Jewel helping to provide some of the most heartwarming moments the film has to offer as a result of the chemistry between herself and Redford. Similarly, Casey Affleck, although initially coming across as rather one-note, offers a good turn as John Hunt, the detective who finds himself revitalised through his pursuit of Tucker.
That is ultimately the key thing about The Old Man & the Gun, it’s a story about growing old and finding happiness in one’s life. Tucker robs banks because he is good at it, and it is what makes him happy even if its isolates him from those he loves and makes him an outlaw. It is truly a high note for any career to end on, made all the more so by lovingly looking back on Redford’s previous works with a nod and a wink to pay heartfelt homage to the actor.