The Old Man and the Gun
Director: David Lowery
Writer: David Lowery
Cast: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Tom Waits and Sissy Spacek
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Rated PG-13 | Minutes: 93
Release Date: September 28, 2018
Effective storytelling is something that is hard to come by, but David Lowery‘s The Old Man and the Gun does it so well, making the characters in the film storytellers who tell a mostly true story about wild and romantic tales of charming bank robberies and fascinating jailbreaks. It is not only a love letter to Robert Redford‘s career, it is also a terrific capper for the legendary actor who will be leaving the acting game on a very high note.
The Old Man and the Gun brings out the very best in Redford by letting him be himself: a charismatic, charming, warm, gentleman who loves what he does and does what he loves. Surrounded by a terrific supporting cast that consists of Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck, Tom Waits, Tika Sumpter, and Danny Glover, Lowery’s latest effort is a nostalgic reminder of what makes character-driven stories so captivating and why we go to the movies. Check out my full review below.
Lowery’s film is actually based on the true story of Forrest Tucker (Redford), a 70-year-old bank robber who escapes from San Quentin and continues his life-long streak of carrying out bank robberies. During one of his heists, he finds a way to elude local authorities by “helping” Jewel (Spacek), whose car has broken down on the side of the highway. She’s skeptical of him, although she finds herself intrigued by Forrest.
How these two never worked with each other still amazes me, but they have instant chemistry. The fact that these two are playing characters who were destined to be together only added to the irony of it all. And while they become friends in an instant, the relationship builds over time. Like a slow burn. Not only does this earn the characters’ trust and love, it works on the audience as well.
When they reach the diner for a brief interlude, we see so much with so little. As the two converse with each other, you can’t help but watch how they instantly fall in love with each other as they listen to each other’s stories about their lives. It’s that look in their eye as they give each other their undivided attention. And as they fall in love, I couldn’t help but fall in love as well. If the movie were just these two talking in a diner, I would still be just as infatuated by the romanticism of them speaking and them falling in love.
While The Old Man and the Gun may be based on a true story, Lowery uses some creative liberties in order to condense it and make the film that much more entertaining. The thing is, the film is based on a 2003 New Yorker article about Forrest Tucker which tells wild tales of Tucker’s adventures. And I say adventures because Tucker lived his life as if it was one.
There was nothing malicious or evil about what the chivalrous Tucker did. In fact, he saw what he did as a living. It wasn’t about the money or making a living. To him, this defined him. And he did it in such a way that truly distinguished himself from other robbers. See, Tucker carried out his bank robberies with flair and style. It was truly an art form for what he did. The romance of an unsuspecting sharply dressed man coming to a bank manager and bank teller, only to see that it was a robbery by signaling to a gun that the audience doesn’t see. And all of that is done very gentleman-like and with a roguish smile.
See, while Tucker’s story is alluring, The Old Man and the Gun isn’t really about the cat and mouse game, it is more about watching these characters tell their story. It’s all in the way these characters converse with each other, exchanging stories, and reminiscing about the past. The way that Tom Waits explain why he hates Christmas at first may feel long-winded, but hearing that conclusion was like listening to a bedtime story. And that’s how the entire film feels. From start to finish, it’s like listening to a story that you don’t want to end.
But the cat and mouse game is simply the other hook. In reality, this is all about a character-driven story, where the film relies on its characters to pull you into listening to their stories. And it is all done very successfully. On the other side of that chase is detective John Hunt (Affleck), who unwittingly found himself at the same bank with Forrest. Although the crime was carried out without his knowing, Hunt finds himself in the middle of the case, tracking Forrest’s past movements and looking into his previous cases.
And what he finds surprises him just as much as it will surprise the audience. John gets a feel for Forrest’s patterns by hearing from his own daughter, and the officers who have previously arrested him. Though the former wants nothing to do with him, she says that her mother never fell out of love, and the way that the latter recalls one of his arrests, you can see that John becomes completely absorbed by what he hears.
Without getting into spoilers, the two eventually cross each other’s paths, and when they do, it’s like a textbook chess match, with each of them making a move not knowing which one could be their last. The exchange is poetry in motion. There’s nothing separating or between the two. It’s just them, in one bathroom, conversing without any effort at all.
Shot on Super 16, Lowery transports the audience to a distant past. The grainy feel and textures adds to the film’s warmth and adds a sense of nostalgia to the film. The rough edges make the film feel as though it had been shelved for decades and has been finally released for audiences to see.
The Old Man and the Gun is the perfect send-off for Robert Redford, who announced that he would be retiring from acting two years ago. While it may be his final film, Lowery provides subtle nods to the legendary actor’s best works through Forrest’s recollection of his life.
All of it was clearly designed to be a love letter to one of the best actors the world has ever seen. Lowery gives the film a timeless feel and focuses on making the film a character-driven story. The story of Forrest Tucker may be magical, but it is how he draws other characters and audiences in with his charm and wit that will make you fall in love with a man just by listening to his voice.