By Jack Dignan
In Cinemas November 15th
If you’re going to send your decades-long career as an actor off on a high note, this is how you do it. The Old Man & the Gun is Robert Redford’s swan song. It’s a joyous celebration of life and the career he’s made for himself. While it may be a heist film, you’ll be smiling all the way through to the closing credits. As I left the theatre after last week’s screening, I left with a sense of euphoria and delight, more so than any other film released this year. Don’t focus on how to live or where life’s going to end up; just focus on living.
Redford, in his final performance as an actor, plays Forrest Tucker in what an opening title card describes as a “mostly” true story. After a recent escape from San Quentin prison, Forrest dives straight back into his criminal ways, robbing banks all across the country and having a hell of a good time doing it. But what separates Forrest from other criminals is that, despite the act he’s performing, he does it with a laugh, a smile and a lot of charm, leaving the victims a little less terrified than you’d expect. In one scene, a bank teller begins to break down into tears, so Forrest ensures he takes the time to cheer her up and tell her just how great a job she’s doing.
It’s a heist movie armed with as much charm as you could possibly imagine. Forrest may be doing bad things, but he’s not necessarily a bad person. He’s not doing this for vengeance or to send a message, and her certainly doesn’t mean anybody harm, he’s just doing what he loves and not caring about what the consequences of his actions are going to be. The same way you and I would go to the movies, Forrest goes to banks. “I’m not talking about making a living, I’m just talking about living,” says Forrest at one point, and it’s a line that perfectly summarizes the central crux of this delightful little story.
Over the course of the film, he begins to fall in love with a widowed woman named Jewel, played by Sissy Spacek, but their love is tested as his criminal ways become more prevalent and a detective, played by Casey Affleck, begins to catch up to him. While Affleck and Redford share very little screen time (in fact, it may just be two scenes, if I’m remembering correctly), what’s there makes for some of the best moments in the film. The supporting cast members are all incredible, joined by the likes of Danny Glover, Tom Waits and Elizabeth Moss, but I just wanted a little more from them, Glover and Moss in particular.
Still, this is Redford’s movie, and he carries it all the way through to the finish line. It’s a wondrous, dazzling and beautiful ode to his lasting impact on the history of cinema, even utilizing footage from some of his old movies during a startlingly effective montage late into the game. David Lowery (A Ghost Story, Pete’s Dragon) directs the absolute hell out of this. His screenplay follows a few predictable beats, but it’s so damn charming that any familiarities become irrelevant. The cinematography is timely and beautiful, and is matched by a wondrous score and soundtrack, but like I said, this is Redford’s movie, and what a way to go.
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