Review: Robert Redford shines in ‘The Old Man and the Gun’

by James Cronin | 11/8/18 2:10am

When I saw “The Old Man and the Gun” last weekend at The Nugget, I was easily one of the youngest people in the audience. The advanced age of the packed crowd was a surprise at first, but upon consideration, it makes sense why this movie appealed so much more to an older demographic; it’s supposedly Robert Redford’s last performance before his acting retirement. The older members of the crowd had most likely grown up with Redford as one of the most celebrated actors of their time — of all time, maybe — and now, in this small theater in Hanover, they were witnessing the last movie he’d ever act in.

“The Old Man and the Gun” is a film directed by David Lowery and features Robert Redford, Casey Affleck and Sissy Spacek. The plot revolves around a man named Forrest Tucker (Redford) and his passion for robbing banks. Along the way, he is pursued by Detective John Hunt (Affleck), and engages romantically with a free-spirited widow named Jewel (Spacek). You might be thinking, “That sounds like a generic heist movie,” and you’d be right in any other circumstance, but given that Redford is 82 years old and Spacek is 69, this film felt like a fresh take on heavily trodden ground.

This film is easily one of the most unique “heist” movies I’ve ever seen. I’m hesitant to even call it a heist movie because it relies much more on its characters and the relationships between them than it does on big action-packed robbery scenes. The bank robbing acts as a backdrop in front of which the well-written main characters interact with one another. I give this movie major credit for managing to stay compelling without focusing on the robbery, and I would accredit that completely to Redford’s sensational performance. How an 82-year-old man can be more charming and suave than most James Bonds is insane to me, and yet, there I was in the theater, just smiling like a dummy in complete awe of how cool Redford is. He becomes Forrest Tucker just as much as Forrest Tucker becomes him. He also looks impressively good for his age. His character is supposedly in his 70s, and, in the movie, one witness of a robbery describes him as looking in his 50s or 60s, and that is 100 percent believable. Without a doubt, I would rewatch this movie just for Redford’s performance alone.

The pacing was on the slower side but picked up steadily around halfway through the film. The short runtime of 93 minutes was well spent and the film did not overstay its welcome. As I neared the end of the movie, I found myself slightly hoping it wouldn’t end so I could just continue watching Redford, knowing that this would be the last time he’d be gracing the screen. At one point in the movie, we’re led to believe that a big heist will be pivotal to the plot, but, to my surprise, the heist isn’t shown to the audience; we only see the aftermath of the successful robbery. I’m not sure whether this was an intentional subversion of expectations, as it’s not the heists that matter as much as the characters, or just Lowery playing to the fact that Redford is old, and it would be difficult for him to pull off an actual action scene, but I did enjoy the subdued role robbery plays in this movie.

I’ve already talked about Redford’s acting, but there are many great performances in this movie. Spacek is fantastic and her chemistry with Redford feels so real and genuine that it’s like watching your grandparents being cute with one another, which is absolutely heartwarming. The relationship between the two characters makes this one of the most wholesome and charming films of recent memory. I definitely left the theater feeling better than I felt going into it on that rainy Saturday. Affleck also delivers a solid performance as a detective going through a midlife crisis who finds purpose by pursuing Redford’s character. Lowery’s superb writing is just as important to the great performances in this film as the actual acting, and I commend the script’s ability to juggle funny and dramatic moments with ease.

Redford has had probably the most impressive career of any Hollywood actor, living or dead. He’s starred in a wide collection of hit movies, he started the Sundance Film Festival and he has inspired multiple generations of actors. Redford is one of the last great Hollywood actors of his era, and this movie had a lot to live up to in order to be a fitting sendoff for his historic career. Yet I think it served faithfully as the final celebration of a Hollywood legend. I cannot recommend this movie enough and I predict that Redford will be a serious contender for the Academy Award for best actor.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!