Film Review – The Old Man & the Gun (Second Take)
The Old Man & the Gun
When first viewing David Lowery’s The Old Man & The Gun, it is easy to regard film and film-festival icon Robert Redford’s supposed final film as an ode to all his classic performances of heist-man and hustler, outlaw and gunfighter and smooth talker and electric horseman. Here, his portrayal of Forrest Tucker, a career bank robber doing it his way until the end, reminds us why the blue-eyed, sandy-haired gent is one of the truest movie stars of the last six decades, capturing his unwitting audiences first by a lingering stare or a slowly widening smile, then holding their wave of fear and shock towards the payout before the crest of the escape and thrill of the tumbling chase. An occasional wipeout is inevitable but a worthy risk for the joy that emanates from Tucker’s core as he heads back to the waves again and again…for they never stop. What Lowery does masterfully here is show the fear of and resistance towards stopping, and what can be lost when one never does.
Through all the lovely shots of Redford’s weathered but still defined face sizing up a possible job from the safety of a distant rooftop or gently but firmly leading a speechless teller or manager through the motions of the game, there is a steady, confident sense of boundless access into any space, to anyone, that few outside of Redford possess. It was that sense that likened this character to Hubbell Gardiner, who Redford played in 1973’s The Way We Were. Both men had striking good looks that command attention, but both mastered how to direct and misdirect that attention to their advantage in order to move upward, through, or out. Most of the bank employees couldn’t quite remember if a gun was pointed at them, just that the charming old man said he had a gun (and most easily recalled that he was a gentleman) For Hubbell, his frustration could come from the paths being too easily set; for Forrest, his lingering doubt is whether his footsteps are still visible on the path.
This story wouldn’t be about a chase unless there was a pursuer, and at this moment in Forrest’s life it is a detective named John Hunt (Casey Affleck) who is as disillusioned with his environments as Forrest is inspired. After 2013’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and last summer’s A Ghost Story, Lowery continues his distinctive style of portraying the undulating stimulus-response of couples in love, both physically and emotionally, as Forrest and Jewel (Sissy Spacek) navigate the prickles of a new relationship while John and wife Maureen (Tika Sumpter) share that unspoken communication that comes with an established bond. As Forrest reveals his style and John unwinds the tension of each day from his face and shoulders, both women observe and react to the level of truth behind their eyes and words.
Forrest Tucker truly believes in the power of his game, similar to Brad Pitt’s description of his gentlemanly hold-up skills to a smitten Geena Davis in Thelma & Louise. It takes Sissy Spacek not caring about his methods or mayhem to bring him down a peg and realize that his wanderlust had better be justified before long.
Though John meets with Tucker’s long-abandoned daughter (played by Elizabeth Moss in a short but powerful scene), there is no explicit scene of reckoning in the old man’s story: whatever regret lies in his heart for his family’s pain and loss is revealed in the few moments where he is forced to slow down or, Heaven forbid, stop. Forward motion is cathartic; the quieter times allow the bruises to throb. What we can observe as far as contrition is the implicit way he negotiates space in the wide open versus intimate exchanges between people. Besides his two old buddies and heist partners, played by Tom Waits and Danny Glover, Tucker is a solitary man, and Spacek’s Jewel sees the slivers of arrested development that impede his ability to establish roots or a clear enough trail towards whatever can be home.
We often see Forrest Tucker with a earpiece that picks up the police frequencies, and it is these scenes when the adrenaline surges and the eyes shine, and he sees the invisible doors opening and the path clearing. Forrest flaunts a disregard for time – about which Lowery cleverly teases the audience in the pacing before and during the robberies. Jewel thinks he’s like a little boy and doesn’t understand it. His family has had to adjust with the infinite as they wait for someone who will probably never return. For the old man, he can’t help but catch one more wave.