It is difficult to imagine the silver screen without Robert Redford, whose career has spanned nearly 60 years, but the 82-year-old actor announced in August 2018 that his upcoming role would be his last. Directed by David Lowery and distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, “The Old Man and the Gun” is a charming film that serves as a fitting farewell to Redford.
Based on a true story, the script is inspired by David Grann’s feature of Forrest Tucker, a career bank robber and prison escape artist. The plot is standard as far as crime films go: Through his courtesy and allure, Forrest, played by Redford, commits a string of bank robberies while in his late sixties.
The seasoned cast is the key to making the film compelling. As Forrest drives across the Southwest, he meets a widow named Jewel, played by Sissy Spacek. A romance ensues, and the chemistry between Redford and Spacek is sincere and genuine. The two have never starred in a film together before, yet their scenes are captivating, and they share the screen evenly.
Another dimension of the story is the search for Forrest after he committed all these crimes. Leading that search is Detective John Hunt, played by Casey Affleck. Even Hunt is entertained by Forrest’s charisma. At every crime scene, the bank managers tell Hunt that the robber was a polite gentleman. Hunt is in awe of Forrest, and the rapport between Redford and Affleck is amusing.
Both Redford and Affleck have worked with Lowery in the past. Redford starred in Lowery’s 2016 adventure film “Pete’s Dragon,” and Affleck starred in both the 2013 drama “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” as well as the 2017 supernatural drama “A Ghost Story.” These past relationships built the foundation for strong scene work and effortless acting.
The film’s music adds a layer of coolness. The compositions of David Hart, who has composed scores for other Lowery films, liven the film. Besides original music, a few other songs are included as well. For example, there is a poignant sequence in which Forrest’s past robberies and escapes are recounted as Jackson C. Frank’s nostalgic song “Blues Run the Game” plays. The sequence features photos of a young Redford and footage from some of his old films to give a sense of Forrest’s past but also acts as a tribute to Redford’s long career.
There is an old-fashioned feel to the film, yet the message is timeless: Find what you love and just do it. Forrest has lived by this motto his whole life. The bank robberies were never really about the money — they were about the excitement and thrill. Similarly, it is a message that Redford has taken to heart. The parallels between the two men are evident in their commitment to their crafts.
Much like its title, the film itself is not flashy. Its simplicity is what makes “The Old Man and the Gun” authentic, and the cast elevates the story with Redford as the clear star. It is a role that he is familiar with, whether as the outlaw in the 1969 western “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” or the conman in the 1973 heist film “The Sting.” His previous roles throughout his impressive career have led him to this final and fitting goodbye.
Redford makes it look easy — his grace and charm will be missed on screen — but all good things, and good careers, must come to an end.