I’ve always enjoyed watching Robert Redford onscreen, and although he’s no longer a youngster he retains every bit of the star quality that blossomed sixty years ago. The Old Man & the Gun is a vehicle in the best sense of that term, a good story that showcases its leading man to best advantage. (Nothing if not self-aware, Redford acquired the screen rights to this true story as reported in The New Yorker and brought it to director David Lowery, whom he enjoyed working with on Pete’s Dragon.)
He plays an unlikely character that I doubt anyone would invent because he’d scarcely be believable: a gentleman bank robber, and a good one at that. He’s been arrested sixteen times and managed to escape every single time. He is so unassuming that no one suspects him when he saunters into a bank about to ply his trade.
Redford is the personification of charm and ebullience here. Watch his scenes with Sissy Spacek, especially when they are sitting opposite each other in a coffee-shop booth. His eyes are so alive it’s positively dazzling. This goes far beyond an actor reading lines. There is a magic, an alchemy that transforms a man into a Movie Star.
Redford is expertly supported by Casey Affleck, as a cop on the robbery detail who’s determined to nab this guy and put him away for good. Tom Waits and Danny Glover are wonderful as his partners in crime. Spacek plays a widow who doesn’t approve of what he does but can’t help falling under his spell. The same might be said of director Lowery, who wrote the screenplay as a love letter to Redford. I am also a member of that club, having enjoyed Redford at every stage of his career.
P.S. He made a remark not long ago about this being his last movie, but at a q&a panel at the Telluride Film Festival he shrugged it off, as if to say that anything’s possible. That’s the best news I’ve heard in a long, long time.