The Old Man & the Gun

By: Trevor Chartrand

Part romance, part crime-drama, The Old Man & the Gun is the gripping, yet low-key, story of notorious bank robber Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford).  Based on the true story of a life-long criminal and prison escape artist, the film examines Tucker as a unique breed of villain.  Always calm and in control – but not in the suave, Ocean’s 11 type of way.  When Tucker robs a bank, he’s simply courteous, polite, and even friendly.

Much like Tucker himself, the filmmakers have approached this film in a cool, laid-back way – there’s no chaotic camerawork or supercharged action sequences in The Old Man & the Gun.  Even the car chases are shot like a casual Sunday morning drive.  Everything is smooth and calculated, with slow camera movements, zooms, and rack-focuses reminiscent of cinematography of the era – in fact, this film looks like it could have been shot in the 1970s with a seamless collaboration between the art department, costumers, cinematography, and performers.

The style of the film is especially refreshing since we’re living in a time where 80s nostalgia is being shoved down our throats in any movie or TV show that can get away with it.  Set in the early 1980s, The Old Man & the Gun rightly demonstrates the period by using a combination of styles and trends from the decades that BEFORE the film is set.  Robert Redford’s character has a style reminiscent of the 50s, when his character would have been in his prime.  And as the adversarial detective tracking Redford down, Casey Affleck’s mustache and plaid suit screams 1970s.  Styles come and go, and there’s no universal outfit for an entire generation.  Thankfully, the filmmakers understood this and rather than bombarding us with synth music and arcade games, this ‘80s movie’ is grounded with the reality of the era.

The actors all bring their A-game here, with the spotlight being on Redford, of course.  He’s brought a lightness to a very dark character with his pleasant, outgoing portrayal of Forrest Tucker.  As his love interest, Sissy Spacek is a wholesome, innocent opposite to Tucker.  On the outside, they’re both the same outgoing, friendly people;  it’s their moral compasses that are out of sync.  I’m not much for romance, but both characters have purity, charm and a real spark that makes for some playful chemistry.

Casey Affleck also has some interesting opportunities as the mumbling detective, John Hunt.  A directionless, somewhat uninspired family man, the thrust of his character mirrors Tucker as he hunts the robber down.  Both men thrive on the danger and feel alive during the thrill of the chase.  The only difference is their role as the chaser and the chased.

Blink and you’ll miss it, but Danny Glover also has a small role as a member of Tucker’s robbery gang.  Glover has proven to be a great actor with a lot of range, and it pains me to see him criminally underutilized lately.  He’s barely a footnote in this year’s Sorry to Bother You, and similarly disappears without explanation near the end of this film.  I suppose he could be taking smaller roles intentionally, waning himself into retirement, but he’s an actor who undoubtedly could bring some great stuff to the screen.

Overall, this film is a well written, smooth and steady crime story.  The Old Man & the Gun is an outstanding period piece with incredible attention to detail, immersive performances and stylized cinematography.  Undoubtedly, this film is worth a watch – you’d only be robbing yourself if you miss it.


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