Based on the ‘mostly true’ story of Forrest Tucker (Redford) the head of the so called ‘Over the Hill Gang’ who robs banks in the most gentile fashion. When Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) begins to connect the dots between the string of bank robberies the most gentlemanly game of cat and mouse ensues as Tucker evaluates his life and new found zest that a relationship with Jewel (Sissy Spacek) brings.
David Lowery’s last film, A Ghost Story, was a slow burning examination of the afterlife and time moving slowly with meditative purpose. The Old Man & the Gun does a similar thing albeit in the examination of life rather than death. For a film that is based around heists and bank jobs there is almost a gentle stroll to proceedings, but then these are older criminals than we may be used to. These men have realised that time may not be on their side but taking your time is ultimately vital to getting the job done right.
Throughout the film Redford applies charm and manners to Tucker making it virtually impossible not to dislike this bank robbing rogue, and while his cohorts may be mainly incidental and a little under developed in terms of character, I wanted this gang to get away with every dollar they took. Part of this is due to the fact that these thefts give life to the trio, the buzz it brings them provides a joy in their lives that a ‘normal’ existence just won’t do. When they discover they are being pursued by several law enforcement agencies, local and federal, their eyes light up with excitement and vigour. John Hunt is the mumbly cop in charge and through this pursuit, finds a new lust for life. Bored and listless in the early part of the film, the discovery of Tucker and his crew restores something that has been lacking life in his day to day work building a loose form of respect between the pair as the tension slowly increases.
Tucker simply can’t escape the joy that crime brings him. Despite his best efforts to settle down into a relationship with Jewel (Sissy Spacek) something within him is pulled back to his old life, the pull of settling down isn’t enough to hold him. Every bank job brings him joy, to the point where he is described to be smiling as he goes.
This film is a story of a bank robber, a criminal and the cop that hunted him down. But it is also a film that examines what it means to have purpose in life and asks the viewer to consider where the joy in their lives is to be found.
The Old Man & the Gun is a charming yarn of a film that I hope enough people take the opportunity to see. This is due to be Robert Redford’s last on screen appearance, his legacy secured as a star of quality, class and high standing. The Old Man & the Gun feels like a suitable way for the curtain to fall on this iconic career in which he found his deepest joy in providing art like this to entertain so many of us.
The Old Man & the Gun is on general release from 7th December.