This review was originally published as part of our London Film Festival coverage on 15/10/2018.
Though David Lowery’s A Ghost Story and his new The Old Man & the Gun are wholly different films, Lowery has returned to an exploration of what he began in the first: our time on Earth and how we spend it. Old Man tells the true, tall tale of gentlemanly criminal Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), whose time was spent robbing banks, armed with a smile more often than a gun.
This modest biopic has a visual style that, at points, wouldn’t look amiss in a Robert Altman piece. Its 16mm graininess, fadeouts, and easy-does-it pans cast us back to an older time, while Lowery’s visual timing remains sharp, so we’re not lost to a nostalgic haze. Lowery’s command of pacing is evident from the off; snappy heist montages, Redford’s Sundance Kid playfulness and Daniel Hart’s soundtrack come together like a little jazz trio; if Old Man is one thing, it’s really smooth.
Redford’s performance is awash with charisma, whilst still peppering the film with the hint of melancholy needed to keep things genuine. Special praise goes to Tom Waits as Forest’s accomplice; his naturalism and laidback mumbling steal the scene more than once – the theme of the understated legend crops up in all corners.
Without hinting at too much of a spoiler, Old Man makes an audacious move around halfway through when two rivals collide, out of the blue, in a diner bathroom. The boldness of it all is hugely entertaining and worthy of a gasp, but the stakes are lowered from here onwards and its charm falters.
Redford couldn’t have picked a better final curtain; The Old Man & the Gun is a charming homage to a certain era of film and Americana. It pays tribute to the classics with undeniable style, falling just short of earning a place in their ranks.
CAST: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Tika Sumpter
DIRECTOR: David Lowery
WRITER: David Lowery
SYNOPSIS: The biopic of Forrest Tucker, the charismatic bank robber who committed successful armed robberies late into his 70s.