Supposedly the final film of Robert Redford’s long and successful career, The Old Man & the Gun is the newest movie by festival darling David Lowery (A Ghost Story).
The film is based on a New Yorker article by David Grann. The story follows Forrest Tucker, a man who at the age of 70 escaped from San Quentin and set out on a string of heists that confounded authorities and caught the eye of the public.
This is perhaps one of the most charming movies to be released this year. Looking at Lowery’s filmography, it is surprising this was so enjoyable, as most of his prior films are on the darker side with a bittersweet tinge. This movie fully embraces the sweetness, leaving most of the bitterness behind.
The writing of the film is highly unconventional, making it feel fresh and unique. It is far from a normal biopic, but it also isn’t quite a normal heist movie. The film takes the best elements of both and combines them into one cohesive viewing experience. Additionally, there is a compelling (and unusual) love story in there too.
The movie’s characters are also extremely complex. There are essentially two co-leads: Redford’s eponymous bank robber and the detective trying to catch him, played by Casey Affleck. Obviously, Redford’s character is meant to be charming and likable. However, the film gives him a much-needed ambiguous side that makes him even more sympathetic. Affleck’s character, on the other hand, is developed through more traditional (but still highly effective) means.
Some of the best scenes in the movie are the scenes that these two characters share together. The dialogue is sharply written, and the chemistry between the actors is phenomenal. Redford’s character also has a few great scenes with Sissy Spacek’s character. Surprisingly, even though her role exists primarily in the B-story, Spacek’s character is still strong and well-rounded.
The film is downright entertaining, too. The story moves at a very quick pace and has a short runtime, allowing it to hold attention quite easily. The heist scenes are entertaining largely because of their ironic nature. They aren’t intense, but they aren’t meant to be. Instead, they are meant to be humorous. The dialogue is also witty, containing quite a bit of humor.
Additionally, the movie is very well-executed. The film has a lot in common with Lowery’s other work: a very personal, old-timey feel that subverts many tropes. However, this is certainly the most refined of his movies yet. He seems to have learned from past mistakes, but still takes risks, succeeding far more often than not.
The cinematography is absolutely beautiful. The visual style of the film is excellent, a perfect throwback to the style of the 70’s. The graininess that the visuals have gives it a level of classiness, complementing the characterization choices well and making the movie all the more immersive. Additionally, the music by Daniel Hart should not be forgotten. It does an excellent job of creating the film’s tone.
However, perhaps this movie’s biggest draw is its performances. Should this really end up being Redford’s last film, it is a good swan song. It is his best performance in years, as it allows him to be charming and charismatic while maintaining a mysterious shroud of complexity around him. Although Redford always runs the show, Affleck and Spacek also give great supporting turns. They both capture the nuance of their characters quite well.
Overall, The Old Man & the Gun is a refreshingly old-school, yet impressively bold movie. It is Lowery’s most accomplished film yet and perhaps one of the best of the year.
The Old Man & the Gun is now playing in select theaters and expands October 19.