After two episodes of this, I’m absolutely sold. This is why God invented unreliable narrators: their stories have their own rules, their own moral calculus, their own wildly impossible possibilities. And in this case, the series opens with the unreliable narrator being assured – or so he thinks? – by a medical professional that he has no cause to doubt his possibly waning senses. Our unreliable narrator is doubly unreliable because he thinks he’s reliable!
I don’t know if this is going to be a core part of the show or not, but it’s one of the more intriguing elements of the first two episodes of this weirdly quiet but weirdly violent “thriller”.
It reminds me a bit of the concept in Logan, where Professor X goes senile and his powers threaten to destroy the world. This is that, but writ smaller because our hero isn’t an all-knowing and all-powerful mutant, he’s just a brutally effective Cold Warrior who’s really handy with his weapons of choice, and hoo boy, what weapons they are!
Animals attacks in movies and TV are difficult because trained animals are so often eager to please and therefore eager to play and therefore harder to make look savage. So sometimes CG has to take over. Can you imagine how goofy or quickly edited The Revenant would have been if Leo had been rolling around with a trained Hollywood bear? But sometimes, you can train an animal well enough and shoot a scene carefully enough that you don’t have some playful beast happily wagging its tail while a stunt man rolls around, hugging the dog and screaming as if he were being attacked. All the while, the dog is having a grand ol’ time and it shows. But then there are movies like Green Room, that know enough to work around this, that know how fearsome an angry animal can be. I really love this element of The Old Man. Which, thankfully, isn’t shy about giving its animals screen time. I’m constantly on the lookout for Dave and Carol, and sure enough, I’m constantly surprised that, yep, they’ve got 'em in the shot!
I was worried the series was going to shift focus to the younger version of the characters. So far, there have only been a couple of flashbacks, and I can take occasional short flashbacks, because I really like the guy playing a young John Lithgow. He’s basically Mark Proksch, but bad-ass, which is perfect for the character Lithgow is playing. But the guy playing the young Jeff Bridges is a total and complete miss for me, mainly because I have such a strong frame of reference for Jeff Bridges at that age: Starman, Cutter’s Way, Tron, even Big Lebowski. So this smarmy TV actor playing the young Jeff Bridges is nothing but a distraction to me. There’s also a woman playing the young Hiam Abbass, who’s a stately Palestinian actress many folks would recognize as the wife in Succession. And if I’m reading the plot trajectory of Old Man right, she’s going to get to do some cool stuff. So I really hope these flashbacks only ever get minimal time, because they have three tremendous actors who are perfectly capable of crafting intricate characters without being swapped out for flashbacks. :(
I don’t know the show creators’ other stuff, so the tone is new to me. But it’s got a slow and methodical pace to it, with occasional explosions of very matter-of-fact violence or brutality. It feels like a Coen brothers adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel so far, although there’s plenty of room for that to go catty wumpus in later episodes. But the groundwork being laid is so far very compelling and there’s not a lot I can compare it to.
Who else is watching this? It’s on FX, so I know it’s available to a bunch of folks!