What can you say about Robert Redford? Other than he is a legend and an icon. At the age of 82, Redford has acted in more than 80 films and directed more than 10 films. Unbelievably he has only been nominated for an Oscar 4 times, only once as an actor for “The Sting” and the other three as filmmaker for “Quiz Show” as best director and best picture, with his one Oscar win for directing “Ordinary People”. Redford is also the founder of one of the largest and most respected film festivals, the Sundance Film Festival which he named after his character in “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid”.
I’ve always been a fan and felt a special kind of magic watching Robert Redford onscreen, and even if he’s no longer a youngster he retains every bit of the star quality that blossomed over the sixty plus years as an entertainer that began when he was 21 years old, starring in an episode of “Perry Mason”. It has been often reported over the last year, that “The Old Man & the Gun” has been marked as the swan song for star Robert Redford, who wants to find the right project to be his elegant way out of his incredible career. There’s really no better role to retire on than this, with Redford required to use most of his charm to bring the picture to life, and he does so with remarkable effortlessness. “The Old Man & the Gun” is a vehicle in the best sense of that term, a good story that showcases its leading man in the best advantage possible.
He made the announcement not long ago that this was his last big starring role. However at a Q&A panel at the Telluride Film Festival he shrugged off the question, as if to say that anything’s possible or he just could very well be tired of being asked the same questions regarding retirement. Whether Redford sticks to his decision to retire from acting or not, “The Old Man & the Gun” is another fine film and performance to add to the legacy that Redford has left behind. He still has that twinkle in his eye and an effervescent charming charisma. If Redford’s to be believed and this is in fact his swan song, he’s going out on the type of A-level piece of work that few of his contemporaries have had the luck to manage. Redford bows to the audience while being at the very much at the top of his game. He’s still got his looks and his talent, and his reputation is as good as ever, making him a beloved figure like his late old partner in crime, Paul Newman.
“The Old Man & The Gun” is a playful change-of-pace for director David Lowery, a superb director of “All Them Bodies Saints” and “A Ghost Story” (Both films starring Casey Affleck). It is Lowery’s breeziest film and plays to his strengths. In keeping with the light tone he brings, “The Old Man & The Gun” only runs a tight ninety minutes, and tells a condensed version of the true story of bank robber Forrest Tucker. It’s one of those stranger than fiction stories, but Lowery never takes it too far. It’s a fun, seventies-style character piece with a sense of humor. Indeed it’s Redford going out on a high note.
Redford had acquired the screen rights to this true story of Forrest Tucker who lived a life as a bank robber, who escaped from 16 prisons. The article was originally reported in The New Yorker and after purchasing the rights, Redford brought it to director David Lowery’s attention, whom he enjoyed working with on Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon”. The press had dubbed Forrest and his two sidekicks (played by a great Danny Glover and Tom Waits), “The Over the Hill Gang,” but this isn’t another reboot of “Going in Style.” Writer and director David Lowery grounds the story in authenticity and shoots the film on 16mm film stock, giving it a wonderfully 70’s style grainy look. “The Old Man & the Gun” stays with a slower rhythm of mischief, but it handles well, with Lowery paying homage to the cinema of his youth starring the star of many of those movies. The film isn’t about big moments, and Lowery doesn’t push himself to over the top.
Redford is the personification of charm and ebullience, just watch his scenes with Sissy Spacek, especially when they are sitting opposite each other in a coffee-shop booth. His eyes is so bright and positively dazzling. This goes far beyond than just an actor reading lines. There is a magic between the two legends, it’s the exact alchemy that transformed them into movie stars. It is a joy to watch Redford and Spacek in perfect rhythm with one another. The autumn romance is not overdone, it’s just right. Spacek is great as always, she is so sweet and gentle. She has a special sweetness in her the way Diane Keaton displays so effortlessly.
We also spend a good deal of time with Casey Affleck’s John Hunt, the police officer trailing Tucker and Hunt’s wife Maureen played by “Southside With You” Tika Sumpter who portrayed Michelle Obama. She does fine work as always.
To his credit, writer-director Lowery periodically reminds us for all of Forrest’s crinkly charisma and all his legendary exploits. He was a narcissist obsessed with the thrill of robbing banks and the challenge of escaping from lockup after lockup. Forrest who wasn’t all that concerned with how his criminal life had impacted the people in his life, from his newfound love interest to the family he abandoned decades ago. Forrest Tucker has his own swan song moments in “The Old Man & the Gun”, they are well tailored for Robert Redford’s swan song as an actor. It’s an incredible performance that serves as a fitting final bow to the audience.
There is a lot of subtle farewell moments in the film. Even the poster, which shows Redford in mid-stride, his right arm obscuring his famous face as he adjusts his hat. It just makes it seem like one of the greatest leading men ever is tipping his cap to us as he walks into the sunset. It’s a sad moment to say goodbye to someone who has entertained us for more than sixty years, with memorable films as an actor and director. He leaves the industry with another memorable performance and gives us one of the best films of his career and one of the best of this year.
GRADE: ★★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★★