Reel Dad: Robert Redford's at his best in 'The Old Man and the Gun'
When Robert Redford speaks, time stands still.
No matter what he may say or what character he may play, this legendary actor captures so much attention and memory that we can’t get enough. Even a movie as light as “The Old Man and the Gun” brings us great joy that the master is back on the screen. And everything is good with the world.
Writer-director David Lowry tells the true story of Forrest Tucker, a bank robber who has managed to escape from prison some 18 times. Contrary to that record, Forrest is not a vicious man, rarely indicating any sense of danger. Nor is he, apparently, a regretful soul, never suggesting an apology for his career choices. Instead he is a soul comfortable in his skin, willing to connect in his way, and reflect on the highs and lows he has survived. It’s just that his experience is beyond what most people could ever imagine.
Now, this narrative may seem as slight as any movie could offer. Little actually happens. And everything happens. Redford is perfectly cast as this charming senior citizen who happens to have a rich history robbing banks. Lots of them. He wears the stress of his experience so well that you would never think, when seeing him on the street or in a café, why many in the law might consider him dangerous.
And because he can be so charming, no matter how crooked he may be, he never seems to be a menace. After all, it’s not in his nature to actually harm anyone, only take their money. What’s the harm in that?
Thanks to Redford’s magic, and his seemingly effortless ability to build a character, Forrest becomes quite the catch for an independent yet longing woman, played with relish by Sissy Spacek, the perfect foil to Redford’s Forrest. Together these screen veterans, in their first movie together, suggest an emotional chemistry that could light many a screen. Without so much as a glance, or part of a sentence, the two connect in a manner that strengthens the story and illustrates the primary conflict. How can a woman so respectable and reliable ever dare to care for a man who may care for her so little?
Of course, nothing is simple in a movie about a bank robber and even a moviemaker as crafty as Lowry needs to add some suspense. While we might just as soon watch Redford and Spacek chit chat at the diner, he is a wanted man, and most policemen don’t like that. So it’s no surprise when a man of the law, reliably portrayed by Casey Affleck, realizes there’s more to the latest crime spree than charmed victims. And that the man at the center may be that legendary criminal with such an amazing legacy.
“The Old Man and the Gun” may not tell us much about senior citizens, bank robbers or cafe menus, but it does remind us how good it can feel to experience real magic on screen. Thanks to Robert Redford, who has said this may be his final film, we can sit back and watch a pro at work. And savor every time the actor speaks.
Nutritional Value: “The Old Man and the Gun”
Content : Medium. Thanks to its easy-going approach, the movie is a lot of fun thanks to the chemistry between Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek.
Entertainment : High. As comfortable as the story may be, the movie entertains because the stars have such a good time.
Message : Medium. Yes, there is a message here, that, how we age doesn’t have to define how we live.
Relevance : Medium. Anyone who savors Robert Redford on screen will have a wonderful time.
Opportunity for Dialogue : Medium. For anyone looking for a light comedy to brighten the day, spend some time with these delightful senior citizens.
“The Old Man and the Gun” runs 1 hour, 33 minutes, and is rated PG-13 for “brief strong language.” After its theatrical run, the film is now available online and on demand.
Savoring the work of Robert Redford
He is, simply, incapable of a false moment on screen.
No matter what role Robert Redford plays as an actor, or what story he tells as a director, he gives us moments filled with authentic views of both what the best of people can accomplish and what the darkest of intentions can prevent.
And for more than 50 years he has made the movies a better place.
Let’s take a closer look at his work.
Barefoot in the Park (1967)
As many times as he played the lead on Broadway, Redford’s portrayal of a young lawyer starting a career and a marriage remains remarkably fresh after all the years. He and Jane Fonda are pitch perfect as young people as they adjust to the realities of married life in an ultra-small Manhattan apartment.
Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (1969)
Redford creates a haunting comic presence in this classic tale co-starring Paul Newman. With minimal dialogue and maximum charisma, the Chaplin Award winner becomes a superstar with a performance of depth and resonance in a film that simply refuses to age.
The Candidate (1972)
As a reluctant candidate for the United States Senate, Redford delivers a breathtaking portrayal of a man trying to live up to his ideals while securing public support. Jeremy Larner’s Oscar-winning screenplay paints a political world dominated by advertising pitches. And the film has a lot to say that we still need to hear today.
The Way We Were (1973)
With billboards reading, “Streisand, Redford, Together,” movie audiences go wild for this romantic drama set in a magical yesteryear. Redford expands what could have been a one-dimensional role — of a young man with the savvy to ease through life — into a striking look at how the ideals of youth can collide with the realities of an unforgiving world.
The Sting (1973)
Reuniting with Paul Newman, Redford wins his only Oscar nomination as an actor for his delightful portrayal of a young con man trying to find his way in a corrupt landscape. The timing between the two actors is impeccable as Redford secures his position as the actor of the moment.
Three Days of the Condor (1975)
In Sydney Pollack’s haunting thriller about the CIA, Redford is his minimal best as a man trying to figure out how a life so simple could quickly turn into something overly complex. As with many of his performances, the actor does more with his eyes than most actors do with pages of dialogue.
All the President’s Men (1976)
Redford scores a triumph as Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward in this adaptation of the detailed account of the Watergate incident. He captures the details of a career in journalism without letting those details smother the humanity of the piece.
Ordinary People (1980)
The quiet command Redford brings to the screen translates to his work as a director with this Oscar-winning adaptation of the Judith Guest novel. Working with a sterling cast, he creates a frightening look at how denial can create dysfunction within a seemingly happy family.
The Natural (1984)
In this romantic look at baseball from director Barry Levinson, Redford creates a mystical portrayal of a young man who is denied the opportunity to pursue his dreams. But, as with many baseball movies, there’s a lot of drama to follow before the final inning.
Out of Africa (1985)
While he may be physically wrong for the part of a free-thinking game hunter who woos Meryl Streep, Redford is so emotionally correct in the role that we can forgive the details. And he is simply magical as a man who refuses to tame a spirit he encourages to be free.
A River Runs Through It (1992)
Again working behind the screen, Redford adapts Norman Maclean’s story into a thrilling look at how a family in the beautiful wilderness copes with the needs of son who insists on a life as wild as the wind.
Quiz Show (1994)
Redford is again an Oscar nominee for Best Director for this piercing look at the television game show scandals of the 1950s. He secures strong performances from Ralph Fiennes, Paul Scofield and John Turturro while beautifully recreating an era defined by discord.
The Horse Whisperer (1998)
As director and star of the film adaptation of Nicholas Evans’ novel, Redford creates a wondrous world of beautiful scenery, complex characters and meaningful lessons about life, recovery and lasting commitment.
All is Lost (2013)
The film begins with a man’s voice, that distinctive, natural, unassuming sound that has filled movie theaters for more than 50 years. While he barely speaks in this film, Redford delivers the performance of a lifetime as a man lost at sea. The actor tells everything we need to know with his eyes.
And now we can savor his voice, and his work, in The Old Man and the Gun.
Thank you, Robert Redford.