Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Old Man’ Review: The charming and dangerous Jeff Bridge beats Jason Bourne in FX’s spy thriller

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The seven-part limited series by Jonathan E. Steinberg and Robert Levine is pure perfection

Jeff Bridge’s Dan Chase in “The Old Man” is what Jason Bourne would be in his 70s – except he probably wouldn’t be any faster or sharper. The FX spy thriller puts Bridges in the role where he’s charismatic yet dangerous, and in the kind of situation he’s in he doesn’t necessarily need to be provoked. With aging washboard abs and toned calves that would make Clint Eastwood proud, Bridges is a man on the run in the new series based on Thomas Perry’s novel of the same name.

The two-hour premiere feels like a feature film, and it’s a bit of a shame to only see one episode a week. The first 30 minutes of the show are all bridges. It’s rasping, creaking, old and definitely seems to be dead. He has two dogs that are loyal and will stretch out their fangs if need be. He lives his life one day at a time until one day he has an intruder who brings his relatively reassuring, dangerous past into his present. Dark action follows, a man with a connection to his past, Harold Harper (John Lithgow), and a CIA liaison Raymond Waters (EJ Bonilla), hot on his heels.

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There’s a lot the series needs to explain, especially after the kind of opening it leads to. For starters, there’s Chase’s story as a former CIA agent during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, his relationship with Harper, and their collective connection to a warlord. Chase flees his safe haven and arrives at Zoe’s (Amy Brenneman) rented house, which he feels relative. The two share an instant spark. While unraveling his tangled past, the episodes also provide a good backstory for Zoe as a middle-aged divorcee. The two hit it off right away and there are some tender moments in what is otherwise a thriller that is mesmerizing to the bone.

The seven-part limited series by Jonathan E. Steinberg and Robert Levine is pure perfection. The cast makes The Old Man all the more compelling. While Bill Heck, who plays a younger version of Chase, holds his own, the other star who shines is Lithgow as a man whose grandfatherly face and demeanor is actually a shroud hiding a hardened and razor-sharp brain. He’s got his own share of dirty secrets, but he’s still trying to keep up with Chase. The supporting cast of ‘Condor’s’ Leem Lubany as a young Abbey Chase (later amazingly fleshed out as an older version by Hiam Abbass) and Alia Shawkat’s Angela Adams, Harper’s FBI protégé, rake in solid performances.

There’s little room for emotion in The Old Man, but it makes near-perfect use of those small windows, though some might feel it takes focus away from the bigger picture. But with countless stories to tell, the Steinberg and Levine thriller is only just beginning. It’s intriguing and well-made, making it a perfect Thursday evening watch.

“The Old Man” airs Thursday nights at 10 p.m. ET

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