Robert Redford Says Farewell In Style With 'The Old Man And The Gun'
The acting legend's final film may win him his first Best Actor Oscar.
If the stories are true and Robert Redford truly intends to make The Old Man and the Gun his final film, he'll be going out on top. Redford, at 82 years of age, has never been more compelling as an actor. Age has only made him better — more charismatic, more wise, more effortlessly cool. Like Steve McQueen and James Dean, Redford was always cool. That's why he's great, and it's why The Old Man and the Gun is great.
Redford's not the only reason why this movie works. Director David Lowery is a methodical, expert filmmaker and Redford has major support onscreen in the form of Sissy Spacek. She's one of the few actors who's his equal and their scenes together are reason enough for anyone to head to the movie theater this weekend. This is what the movies are all about — charismatic performers bringing a story to life.
The Old Man and the Gun is, impressively, a true story based on David Grann's 2003 New Yorker article of the same name. Redford plays Forrest Tucker, one of those old-fashioned bank robbers who captured the public's attention with savvy and style. Except he did it during the 1980s, when he was old enough to live in a nursing home. Along with taking down dozens of scores, Tucker became known as an escape artist and claimed to have broken out of various places 18 times over the course of his life of crime. He stole and evaded capture and lied and lived outside the law most of his life. And everyone loved him. Bank tellers, managers, police officers, even his own "victims," all remembered Tucker as a true gentleman.
Some roles are just built for some actors.
Redford shines from the beginning as Tucker is introduced smoothly exiting a freshly robbed bank. He proceeds to help a woman whose car has stalled in the midst of his getaway. The cops pay no attention to the old man and the lady. Why would they? The Old Man and the Gun is full of these types of maneuvers as Forrest outsmarts everyone around him, while having the time of his life.
Forrest even outsmarts the law under their own noses, robbing a bank while (aptly named) Texas detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) waits as a customer. By the time Hunt realizes what just happened, Tucker is long gone. This costs Hunt some face at work, but it also earns Tucker a new rival. Hunt is now on the hunt.
Soon, the detective figures out Tucker and his "Over-The-Hill Gang" (Danny Glover and Tom Waits) are responsible for dozens of robberies all over Texas and other states. He's on their tail, but Hunt remains ever fascinated by Tucker, who's more of a real-life superhero than a dangerous criminal. Like Bonnie and Clyde, Goodfellas, and other gangster movies that present the criminal's point of view foremost, The Old Man and the Gun remains an old school, romantic story about freedom in America at any cost.
It's not just the life of crime and freedom that's romanticized here. The lady Tucker stops to help on the highway ends up taking a shine to him like everyone else does. Jewel (Spacek) and Forrest connect the way we all do — having conversations in diners or truck cabs. They joust beautifully and it's hard not to daydream about both of these wonderful actors' careers as they play off each other. Redford, wearing a three-piece suit and fedora like he once did in The Sting and The Natural and The Great Gatsby. And Spacek, alone in the Texas dust like she once was as a young girl in the gangster classic, Badlands. Here she is again, falling in love with another criminal almost 50 years later. The nostalgia is baked into this movie so thick you can almost reach out and grab it.
I can't think of a better send-off for Redford. He's an immediate Best Actor Oscar contender and should be considered a threat to win based on the nostalgia vote alone. He's never won the award. (He has won as a director.) Redford slips into the character of Forrest Tucker like he slips into those fancy suits. The hat, the hair, the grin — they're all there. This is vintage Redford. And check out the poster. He's tipping his hat to us like an Old West legend riding off into the sunset. Sounds about right.