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It is as though Redford, after a long and successful career as America’s heartthrob, is taking one final look back through the door before he closes it behind him (and then jumps out the window). “The Old Man and the Gun” loosely follows the true story of Forrest Tucker, a career criminal and absurdly successful prison escape artist, who managed to escape captivity 18 times.
In many ways the film idealises a 60’s America, with its diners, Cadillacs, and strong American values; it was a more simple time. The narrative is essentially one of cops and robbers. Tucker (Redford) is a robber. Hunt (Casey Affleck) is a cop. These are their roles and they play them. It is a beautifully easy watch which at no point feels tepid or lacking.
At the same time, the film serves up a slightly cliché American underdog narrative about a man just trying to do what he loves. But while such a conceit might sound a little tiresome, there is a certain self-aware authenticity to it, it’s not trying to hide any unnecessary complexity. Which, in an era of overstimulation, makes for a refreshing change.
Redford is a perfect casting as Tucker, so much so that it’s hard to imagine someone else playing the part. His acting is as you’d expect; he plays off a distinctly American charisma with the sort of mature charm akin to that of Frank Sinatra or Roger Moore. Though there is a certain frustration that arises when watching him play this role which is mainly born of a slight jealousy that his appeal hasn’t been affected by age. Lowery, who has previously worked with Affleck on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and A Ghost Story manages again to tease out another solid performance from Affleck, though one unlikely to win any awards.
However, the true standout comes from Sissy Spacek as Jewel, the subject of Tucker’s romance. She seems to have, like Redford, grappled a charm exempt from the atrophy of time. As such, the chemistry between these two is wholly convincing.
It’s a film which stands in defiance of the digital age. This is large in part due to its film-like texture, which beautifully grains an already nostalgic colour palette, effectively replicating the aesthetic of the 1970s. Which, in conjunction with its stripped back narrative and slow pacing, means that if ‘The Old Man…’ was actually a Blu-ray remaster of a 70’s film, it wouldn’t surprise you.
It’s unlikely to leave much of a footprint in the annals of cinema but that’s okay. It is as though Lowery and Redford are questioning of our motivations as an audience; asking us, can’t a film just be enjoyable? And in the case of the Old Man and the Gun, the answer is clearly yes.
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