Film catch up: – The Old Man and his Gun

Simon’s just back from a short overseas trip and took the opportunity to catch up with a few films during his flight. One was a movie he’d wanted to catch on its release last year but missed. He reckons it was worth the wait, and if you haven’t seen it either, he’s recommending it as an engaging comedy drama.

Forgive me for starting with a fond recollection of a movie that won me over in my childhood, namely Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was released in 1969 so I guess I was 9 or 10 when I saw it. I remember the humour, the action, and the way Paul Newman and Robert Redford sparked off each other so well. And there was a rather popular song attached to the film which didn’t get in the way either.

Looking back at it now, it’s the apparent ease of Newman and Redford’s work that is so endearing. It just looks effortless. These performances, charming, witty and also dramatic, gained a pathos because of the film’s ending which lingers still.

Redford’s Sundance Kid was a cool, dashing poster boy of a cowboy and the role cemented his superstar status for the rest of his career. It allowed him to pick and choose his roles for decades to come.

Near the end of that career, Redford has returned to a role very (and surely deliberately) similar to the Sundance Kid. Given his turn in The Old Man and his Gun has been touted as his last, it’s no surprise he’s acknowledging the long lasting afterglow of The Sundance Kid.

Here he plays Forrest Tucker, a career bank robber, and a career prison escaper. But he’s no thug, no nasty criminal prone to violence. No, just as Sundance tried to avoid killing anyone, and had a disarming way of dealing with the victims of his heists, so Forrest is the epitome of the gentleman robber. He’s charming, polite and all in all rather friendly with the bank staff he confronts. He shows them a gun, but he never uses it. He is also meticulous and methodical in his preparation. He loves what he does. It’s not really for the money, but rather for the adrenalin rush of planning a heist and getting away with it. Plain and simple, it’s the only thing he wants to do.

Around Redford in the film is an excellent cast: Danny Glover and Tom Waits are his partners in crime, Casey Affleck plays the detective determined to bring Forrest to justice, and Sissy Spacek is the love interest, who tries to keep him on the straight and narrow.

It’s a finely judged film, blending its mostly gentle and whimsical humour with the tension it builds over whether this time Forrest will get away with it one more time, get caught and be put away for a long time, or whether Sissy’s wiles will steer him out of trouble.

Redford, in his understated, calm and cool way, eases himself through a role that probably doesn’t require him to work that hard, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s a pleasure to see him do his stuff. At 80, he’s still cool. Either you got it or you don’t. It’s another ride for Sundance, maybe his last, but don’t bet on it. A lovely way to spend an hour and a half or so.

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