Still got it

Published date04 October 2022
Publication titleSignal
THE first episode of The Old Man (Disney+) is a little misleading. It sets itself up as a meaty action thriller in the vein of Taken, with Jeff Bridges as the tough guy slowly picking off his enemies. As “Dan Chase” (though his name is prone to changing for reasons that soon become evident) Bridges cuts a lonely figure, rambling around a quiet house with only his dogs for company. There is ample medication by the bed. He struggles to put his socks on. He is haunted by memories of his late wife, who regularly unsettles his dreams

While his bones may be creaking, this old man obviously knows his way around a gun. Nothing is as it seems. Dan speaks to his daughter Emily regularly by phone, but then puts the phone in the microwave and turns it on. (What setting do you use to fry lines of communication? Popcorn or jacket potato?) His dogs are more than beloved pets. And he gives Better Call Saul’s hitman, Mike Ehrmantraut, a run for his money when it comes to DIY home security solutions. Is he paranoid, or are they really out to get him?

It’s not giving too much away to say that yes, they are out to get him. As well as a solid supply of statins, he has bags of money and fake IDs stashed away. It turns out that Dan was a CIA operative who went rogue decades earlier, and has been on the run, living under an assumed identity, ever since. But the people he has been running from are catching up with him. He is given a choice: he can disappear for ever, though that means Emily’s safety is never quite guaranteed. Or he can stand his ground and fight, using the many questionable methods he picked up in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war.

It seems hokey at first, a by-the-book espionage thriller, particularly when characters have to gravely deliver lines such as, “I did what I did and I’d do it again because it led to us.” But early hints suggest there is more substance. For a start, there’s Bridges (72), magnetic in every scene, whether he is rolling around on the floor with a much younger and fitter enemy, or driving away from conflict, making a split-second decision that might have catastrophic consequences. Dan Chase is slow and wheezy, but Bridges imbues him with just the...

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