I guess if you reach a certain status in the movie industry, you can pretty much make whatever you want. It’s a pretty rare place I imagine but if anyone is there, Robert Redford is there. I don’t mean this in a negative way, I very much enjoyed The Old Man and the Gun, it’s just hard to get away from the thought that Redford has pretty much distilled his emotions about his career into one movie. I’m making a lot of assumptions about this one as Redford has no credit here beyond lead actor. But stay with me, I’ll get there.
The movie tells the ‘based on a true’ story of Forrest Tucker (Redford), a man with a talent for holding up banks without ever having to actually use the gun that he politely shows to terrified bank tellers whilst politely asking them to deposit cash into his briefcase. We pick up with Tucker in his twilight years as he and two other equally ageing mates cruise around fleecing small banks. As the movie unfolds, we discover that Tucker has been doing this since youth and has broken out of prison on no less than sixteen occasions. Fleeing his latest heist, Tucker stops to help Jewel (Sissy Spacek) - broken down at the side of the road. The encounter is telling of his personality though as it’s only a convenient moment used to get him off the highway whilst the police look for a elderly single man in a car (he gives Jewel a lift, just to make sure). There is clearly some spark between the pair though as they exchange numbers.
In a fairly typical heist movie way, this all builds to one big heist and to Tucker and Jewel gradually falling for each other, though to be fair, their relationship is handled well - there are no histrionics here. In fact, histrionics are about as far from this movie as you could possibly get as it gently meanders through Tucker’s later years. The feeling of the movie has great synchronicity with Tucker’s attitude and character. He robs banks in a gentle way, always smiling, always polite, always looking for every bit that this is what he is meant to do. The movie has a feeling of being pulled gently downriver on a warm hazy day - there may be the odd twist and turn but you’re never going to get thrown overboard and the destination is wonderfully inevitable.
Which brings me to my point about Redford and his career. Tucker’s drive is that he is not only good at what he does, he absolutely loves it. To the point that he can’t ever imagine not doing it. As the camera pans from him dropping wads of cash into a hole in his floor boards along the piles and piles of cash under the floor, we realise that the money is a mere prop for him, he simply loves what he does. As Redford cruises through his 82nd year and rumours of his retirement swirl, you can’t help but see his reflection in the character. Redford may not be holding up any banks but you can definitely still see the sparkle in his eyes as he does what he clearly loves - in his 79th movie. The Old Man and The Gun is a chirpy, breezy, funny, wonderfully acted piece that drifts at just the right pace and has just the right depth to keep you interested. If it does turn out to be Redford’s last appearance, it will be the perfect sendoff for one of Hollywood’s true greats.