(Release Info London schedule; December 1st, 2018, Curzon Victoria, 11:00)
"The Old Man & The Gun"
"The Old Man And The Gun" is based on the true story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), from his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public. Wrapped up in the pursuit are detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who becomes captivated with Forrest’s commitment to his craft, and Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a woman who loves him in spite of his chosen profession.
Forrest Tucker only ever has one occupation, but it's one he's unusually gifted at and pursued with unabashed joy. It just happened to be bank robbing. In the early 1980s, at a septuagenarian age, Tucker embarked on a final legend-making spree of heists with 'The Over-The-Hill Gang', a posse of elderly bandits who employed smooth charm over aggression to make off with millions. Tucker never stopped defying age, expectations, or rules; he makes his twilight the pinnacle of his life of crime. If the sole art form he knew is robbery, he's darned if he isn't going to try to perfect it, no matter how elusive the dream. He’s someone who does what he loves and gets away with it. The film imbues the story with the rollicking mythos of a modern Western. The feeling is that of a campfire tale about a simpler time; i.e. the 1980s, that last decade just before mobile devices and the internet changed everything. It's a time with less hurry and more room to hide, which makes the chase that erupted between Tucker and the lawman who pursued him a thing of slow-burning beauty both men relished. And as Forrest is chased, he too is chasing something; a last chance at love and at a legacy, even if it must be an outlaw one.
But what makes this story unique is that it’s an allegory for an uncompromising artist’s soul. Robbing banks maybe isn’t the greatest choice of art form but it’s what Forrest did, so he put his heart into it. And like all uncompromising people, Forrest sacrificed a lot, in terms of relationships, in terms of what he missed and what he risked. Forrest believes that wanton violence is the sign of an amateur holdup man. The best holdup men, in his view, are like stage actors, able to hold a room by the sheer force of their personality. He's a gentleman, even if he's gentlemanly bank robber. It harkens back to almost a James Cagney type of movie, where there’s an innocence to it. Forrest is a wonderful, complicated character, so full of life and risk and enjoying danger. On the one hand, Forrest is a dreamer but on the other, he’s capable of taking great risks and he’s someone who you can trust has the capacity to go through with a plan, and trust is key in this world, We root for Forrest because we understand him as a man who wants to keep doing what does best, a man looking for love and success who isn’t ready to quit. It's Tucker’s desire to keep upping his game that draws the law to him one last time. The film touches on these deeper themes in a playful way. It's important for the film to have levity, to feel like a fun legend people tell their kids at night.
Even amid the eccentric annals of famed outlaws, Forrest Tucker is an original, a career bank robber who escaped prison 18 times and pulled off bank heists well into his seventies. The real Forrest Silva Tucker grew up in Depression-era Florida, brought up by his grandmother and raised on dime-store novels about stickup men who broke out from the social margins. He began his own life of crime in his early teens with a stolen bicycle and from then on, spent his entire adulthood in and out of prison; often breaking out of prisons, including his most notorious escape from San Quentin. Molding himself into his own version of the crime legends he’d read about, he would become as renowned for his calm, personable heist style as for amassing a total of 18 successful escapes from incarceration. Forrest Tucker passed away in 2004 at the age of 83, after serving just 4 years of his 13-year sentence for armed robbery in Texas when sent to prison in 2000. Two qualities seemed to bind Forrest; dedication to his chosen craft and an ability to tap into a boyish passion no matter their age. The end of the road is something Tucker always sought to avoid, one of the reasons perhaps he became one of the world’s greatest escape artists.
The real Forrest Tucker was married three times, but it was his last wife who saw him for who he was. The script riffs in a semi-fictional way on the character of Jewel, exploring why a fiercely independent widow might choose to share her life with a bank robber still dreaming of the biggest and best heist he might pull off. Jewel is content on her own. Her children are grown up and gone. Her husband has gone on to the other side and she lived on a ranch with all of her animals. She's very rooted and she's the opposite of who Forrest is. Forrest went whichever way the wind blew, he always has. But Jewel is just grounded and everything for her is about her relationships with both people and animals. In that context, deciding to let Forrest woo here's most of all a welcome leap into one of life’s unknowns for Jewel. Jewel is at a point in her life where she thinks, maybe it’s time for me to do whatever I want. In saying yes to this man, she's really saying yes to life. And she could do that, because she's already so independent and didn’t really need anybody to take care of her. Forrest Tucker knows he's lucky to discover in Jewel a woman who accepted his enormous flaw of being a wanted man, while falling for everything else about him.
She knows who Forrest is and she knows this terrible thing about him but still, she supported him. She didn’t particularly like what he did, but she loved him for the kind of human being he's. She knows Forrest couldn’t stop, even if a part of him would have liked to. She knows, Forrest doesn’t rob banks for any darker purpose other than for the thrill of knowing he can figure it out. She gives him a place to go, a place to stop and rest his weary bones, if just for a moment, and she gives him a good friend. The film excavate the improbable nature of Forrest and Jewel’s connection; exploring why two people who seem so thoroughly unlikely as a couple on the surface match at a deeper level as two people each still looking to extract something more out of life. Sweet as things are, they both know it’s just a matter of time before the law caught up with Forrest again. Teddy Waller (Danny Glover) is a more prototypical criminal than Forrest, someone who didn’t quite have it all together. He has had a screw loose. He was in prison for 10 years, he had made a lot of mistakes and, you know, his socks didn’t match. Forrest is much more together. He's composed and that’s why he's the gang leader.
The thrill of the heist for Forrest Tucker is matched by the meaningfulness of the pursuit for the cop who decided he's going to nab him; John Hunt. Forrest is an undeniable force, able to get the bank tellers to swoon and cooperate. So John Hunt looks at him and wonders; is the way this guy lives his life an example I should be applying to myself? That’s a hard thing for a police officer to ask about a criminal. And it creates a really interesting interplay both inside Hunt and with Tucker. Hunt is kind of a lone wolf. He's discontented with the police department, so he went off and decided he’d figure this case out all on his own. But there's also something about the romance of a non-violent, life-long bank robber that appealled to Hunt. He has a kind of admiration for Forrest. Even as Forrest grows closer to Jewel, the Texas policeman John Hunt is closing in on him. But Hunt too is more a source of pride than distress for Forrest, who enjoyed being worthy of a grand chase and having an opponent to outsmart.
For Forrest, that respect comes with realizing that Hunt is going to be the animal that chased him and he's going to be the animal that escaped. Hunt confesses that he did indeed have a qualified respect for Tucker, even as he sought to bring him to justice. It's a time when a cop could take his time chasing a robber, when the contest of the chase itself could overtake the finality of the capture, which is what happens between Forrest and John Hunt. In real life, Hunt never actually met Tucker face-to-face. But in the film, they've two intriguing encounters. In their first, Hunt is humiliated by Tucker when he finds himself standing in a bank line waiting to make a deposit when a stickup occurs right under his nose. From that moment, Hunt makes it his life’s mission to catch this guy, and that’s the start of a deeper connection between the two of them where they each are playing the other and pushing the other.
This film is based on a story, journalist and author David Grann has written about Forrest for 'The New Yorker' in 2003, three years after the bank robbing legend been sent back to prison at age 80 for yet another cunning heist to cap off a literal lifetime of them. The internal joyousness of the character is his guide into telling the story as an almost anti-procedural, making both the crimes and the pursuit of the criminals secondary to the spirit of the storytelling. The film turns the story into two gleeful cat-and-mouse games; one the unfolding love story between Tucker and perhaps the only woman who would ever put up with his outrageous career choice; the other the story of the world-weary law 9 who decided to chase him. A few decades ago, both crime and law enforcement had a different feel. With no internet or smart phones and few computers, if police wanted to share information across state lines it was done by telephone or U.S. mail. Most cops still carried revolvers, not automatic weapons. The chase is where all the energy was. It’s always a little bit of a letdown in movies when the chase has to end, isn’t it?
"The Old Man & The Gun" takes place on the cusp of the 80s, which allows the film to pay a homage to 70s filmmaking. At the same time, the film’s settings are an outgrowth of the film’s characters. The film is being more of a throwback emotionally rather than in it's style. The emphasis is on the people and it’s almost not important when and where this all takes place. It’s just that you suddenly might realize that hey, nobody has a cell phone or the internet and you’re in this world that’s a little different from the one we live in now. Super 16 has such a special aesthetic quality that immediately harkens back to 70s filmmaking. And it looks really old-fashioned. The film wants the image to feel old but also wants to avoid nostalgia. People use their imagination more. The film stuck to the physical side of everything being pre-1981. It's a colder, more sterile look, using greys, whites and primary colors, rather than everything being warm browns, woods and oranges. It’s about aspiring to the classic American dream. Western showdowns, comic capers and gritty tales of complicated cops and robbers, but all in service to a fresh take on living outside the lines. It’s a subtle, human take on a crime story, but it also has a very jazzy kind of feel. Less is always more and the film leaves audiences with mysteries and questions. "The Old Man & The Gun" pushes against all natural instincts and see how far outside our comfort zone we could get ourself.