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Not since Robert Redford capered his way around a long con with Paul Newman at his side in The Sting has a career criminal derived such obvious pleasure from his vocation. Nearly 50 years on, in what is reportedly his final performance, Redford twinkles through The Old Man and the Gun as Forrest Tucker, the “pistol-packing grandpa”, spry in his petrol-blue suit and buoyant in the knowledge of a job well done. That job just happens to be the latest in a series of calm, eminently reasonable bank heists, pulled off with two ageing sidekicks, played by Danny Glover and Tom Waits (of whom more later).
In contrast, Forrest’s counterpart in a cat-and-mouse dance with the cops is just 40 years old. But detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) wears his years like a concrete boot. Affleck is particularly in tune with the physicality of his characters; here, his posture is a soul-sick ache of resignation. Job satisfaction for Hunt is the moment he opens his front door and groans himself on to the sofa. Until, that is, he finds himself on the trail of “the over the hill gang”.
This elegantly written, fact-based picture is a tonal shift for writer and director David Lowery, whose previous film was the well-regarded A Ghost Story. Shot on 16mm film, with a grainy texture and a Kodachrome colour scheme, the look of the film and the sound – a punchy score that channels 1970s Quincy Jones – cannily evokes the film-making of another era. As does the casting – opposite Redford is Sissy Spacek’s Jewel, apple-cheeked and glowing with wholesomeness. For a while at least, Jewel offers a future that is just as appealing to Forrest as the outlaw life.
Equally crucial to the film’s craggy appeal is the easy comradeship between Forrest and his gang. Tom Waits is a particular delight: his monologue about his relationship with the festive period, in a voice that crunches like shattered Christmas baubles, is completely inessential in that it doesn’t drive the story forward. But it washes through the film, a tide of goodwill that makes you realise just how much you are enjoying spending time with these incorrigible old-timers.
Source: The Guardian
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