The Old Man review – Jeff Bridges can barely put his socks on, but he sure can shoot | Television & radio

Jhe first episode of The Old Man (Disney+) is a bit misleading. It comes off as a meaty action-thriller in the vein of Taken, with Jeff Bridges as the badass who slowly takes down his enemies. As “Dan Chase” (although his name is subject to change for reasons that soon become apparent), Bridges cuts a solitary figure, wandering around a quiet house with only his dogs for company. There are enough medicines near the bed. He has trouble putting on his socks. He is haunted by memories of his late wife, who regularly disrupts his dreams.

Although his bones may crack, this old man obviously knows how to handle a gun. Nothing is as it seems. Dan regularly talks to his daughter Emily over the phone, but then puts the phone in the microwave and turns it on. (Which setting do you use to fry the lines of communication? Popcorn or jacket potato?) His dogs are more than beloved pets. And it gives Better Call Saul hitman Mike Ehrmantraut a run for his money when it comes to do-it-yourself home security solutions. Is he paranoid or do they really want him?

It’s not giving too much away to say yes, they’re here to get it. In addition to a solid supply of statins, he has bags of money and fake IDs hidden away. It turns out Dan was a CIA agent who went rogue decades earlier and has been on the run, living under a false identity ever since. But the people he fled are catching up with him. He has a choice: he can disappear forever, even if it means Emily’s safety is never quite guaranteed. Or, he can stand his ground and fight, using the many questionable methods he learned in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War.

It feels hokey at first, a literal spy thriller, especially when the characters have to gravely deliver lines like “I did what I did and I would do it again because it drove us.” But early clues suggest there’s more substance. For starters, there’s Bridges, magnetic in every scene, whether he’s rolling on the floor with a much younger, fitter enemy, or walking away from a conflict, making a decision in a fraction of the time. seconds which could have catastrophic consequences. Dan Chase is slow and hissy, but Bridges imbues him with just enough menace and buried rage to indicate that even now you wouldn’t want to cross paths with him.

The rest of the cast, too, shows that this is serious business. Joel Gray appears. Then Alia Shawkat appears. But Bridges’ main co-star, the cat to his mouse, is John Lithgow as Harold Harper, an FBI deputy director, who is tasked with helping find Chase. Harper is reeling from a recent family tragedy, but he has “skin in the game”, having worked with Bridges’ character long ago in Afghanistan.

It becomes clear by the end of the second episode that there is much more to The Old Man than car crashes and gory fight scenes. Many of the relationships are explored in more detail in flashbacks, with different actors playing younger versions of the protagonists in Afghanistan. This blurs the cards on who are the good guys and who will be the bad guys. It has notes from Homeland, when Homeland was sensitive, and drip information to keep you hooked.

The age of our main action hero, if we can call it that, also adds a more contemplative angle. Chase hasn’t been actively on the run in decades, and everything is different now. He makes mistakes. When he first “disappeared”, the technology now available to the FBI could hardly have been imagined. “Starting over seems so much harder than I remember, he says; it’s certainly true that it takes more to disappear these days than a fake ID, a setup with guns, and an ability to lie.

I thought The Old Man was going to be another spy thriller, the kind of thing where gruff guys scream and shoot. But curiously, when the rhythm slows down, he reveals himself to be smarter than that. It’s still packed with rewarding twists and doesn’t mind a real shock or two with every episode, but there’s plenty of added fun to watch a series like this, when those twists are handled with expert precision, and very well executed.

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