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Review: The Old Man & The Gun

October 5, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The latest film from David Lowery, following his haunting minimalist drama A Ghost Story and his charming remake of Disney’s Pete’s Dragon, The Old Man & The Gun is as light as a feather, and just as buoyant.

The film recounts the true story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), a genial career criminal who, since the time he was fifteen, spent his life robbing banks, getting locked up, and then escaping from prison to start the whole process over again.

We focus on Forrest in the twilight of his life, catching up with him as an elderly gentleman who still takes pleasure in robbing banks and does so with a smile on his face. He flashes the revolver that he keeps under his jacket but never fires it, and instead makes small talk in the midst of a holdup and offers encouraging words to the tellers as they load up his briefcase with cash.

Aided by his two friends Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits), who collectively come to be known as the Over the Hill Gang, Forrest’s impressive streak and pleasant demeanour make him into a sort of folk hero. But his time might finally be coming to an end thanks to John Hunt (Casey Affleck), a detective who becomes equally passionate about taking him down.

David Lowery’s films have been described as bedtime stories, and that’s an apt description for The Old Man & The Gun. There is such a gentle quality to the film, which is almost disarming considering that it’s about an armed bank robber, but this lyrical tone fits well with Forrest’s chipper personality. The film unfolds like a gentle fable, drawing us in to the quietly compelling world of its characters through beautifully textured performances, and the results are often delightful and utterly charming.

Taking place mostly in the early 1980s, The Old Man & The Gun feels like it could have just as easily been made in that time period as well, with Joe Anderson’s 16mm cinematography capturing the feels and textures of the era in a really beautiful way. The entire movie is notable for the way that it lovingly recalls the filmmaking style of years gone by, right down to the musical choices and font used for the title cards that divide the film into chapters.

The film also provides a wonderful sendoff for Robert Redford should he actually retire after this, as he has publicly stated. The veteran actor does radiant work here that recalls some of his most iconic roles, appearing with a youthful twinkle in his eyes that proves he is still able to charm audiences. Also watch for Sissy Spacek as Forrest’s love interest, as their scenes together are magical. This is a wonderful, slightly melancholic film that feels like an old classic.

A version of this review was originally published during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

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