We are all going to grow old and die someday. While cliche, this fact of life still has a way of sneaking up on people when they least expect it.
“The Old Man & the Gun” captures this realization for real-life serial bank robber Forrest Tucker, who lived an extraordinary life of simple heists and not-so-simple escapes.
Starting in the late 1970s and bleeding into the early ‘80s, Tucker is a 70-year-old man who robs banks across the country. After detective John Hunt notices a pattern of old men robbing banks, he begins to pursue Tucker.
“The Old Man & the Gun” is not a particularly inventive or shocking film. At base level, it is a standard heist movie with the exception of the criminal’s age. What makes it worth seeing is how well every aspect is pulled off.
Robert Redford is, as always, magnetic on screen. His charisma is unparalleled, as the highlights of the film are whenever he talks with Sissy Spacek’s character, Jewel. The main conflict comes from how they start to fall for each other, when Tucker must decide if he wants to be with her or continue his spree.
The writing and direction from David Lowrey are simple but effective. The dialogue is witty and clever, but not overdone. The filmmaking aims to emulate the shooting style of the ‘70s and ‘80s — even going so far as to utilize film grain and intense zooms. This effect helps put the audience in the setting, with the film’s subdued color palette reflecting the calm and lethargic atmosphere.
The heists themselves are equally as simple but still entertaining. There are common shots and sounds that let the audience understand how these jobs are pulled off, and the film does a great job of subverting our previously established expectations to set-up some memorable and poignant moments.
“The Old Man & the Gun” remains a light-hearted affair throughout most of its running time, taking its time with the plot to focus more on characters and jokes. It allows the audience to understand these people and have fun while doing it.
It is impossible to disassociate this film from Redford’s recent announcement of his retirement from acting. In a way, this movie and his performance feel like a send-off, highlighting the actor’s talents in a film that tangentially celebrates his career.
Tucker is a man who spent his life robbing banks not to make money, but because it was something he loved. He wasn’t the type of person to marry, settle down and raise a family. Even though he’s older now, and is looking to get out at some point, he can’t resist doing what he loves.
Maybe this is Redford’s last movie; maybe, God forbid, he’s going to die soon. Both Tucker and Redford seem to be at the same crossroads — realizing the end is in sight and reflecting on their life.
If “The Old Man & the Gun” is any indication, Redford is doing just fine and still having the time of his life.
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