Film Reviews

The Sisters Brothers | The Old Man & the Gun – VIFF 2018

The Sisters Brothers

Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riz Ahmed walk into a saloon… need I say more? 

The English-language debut of French director and mainstay of the European festival scene Jacques Audiard, The Sisters Brothers is a western that does its best to bring some modernity to the genre; to try something a bit different while playing to the strengths of its well-matched cast. It is also darkly humorous; steeped in sharp wit and impeccably-timed physical comedy that jars (in a good way) opposite the core dramatic relationship of its dual leads.

Phoenix and Reilly are on fine form as Charlie and Eli Sisters, assassins on the trail of a chemist determined to strike it rich with his unique discovery (Ahmed) and the detective guiding the brothers to his location (Gyllenhaal). The disagreeable yet lovable dynamic shared by the brothers drives and maintains the momentum, from the opening pitch black gunfight deep in the plains through their sometimes wayward but always dangerous mission.

What takes Audiard’s fine work up a notch is Irréversible cinematographer and frequent Gaspar Noé collaborator Benoît Debie, whose stunning photography against a wide range of Spanish backdrops transports us to old Oregon by way of many timeless spaghetti westerns that rode the same road some 50 years ago.

As aesthetically pleasing as it amusing as it is thoroughly enjoyable, The Sisters Brothers is one to train your sights on this autumn.

View the trailer for The Sisters Brothers here.

READ MORE: Boy Erased – VIFF 2018

The Old Man & the Gun

If charm were to be permanently personified, that person would surely be Robert Redford. After a full 58 years in front of the camera the veteran actor decided to call it quits this year, with writer-director David Lowery’s portrayal of career bank robber and all-round gentleman Forrest Tucker, his swansong of choice.

A return to more traditional filmmaking for Lowery following last year’s brilliantly bold A Ghost StoryThe Old Man & the Gun is an alluring, witty character comedy, set amongst the events of a supposedly serious small-town crime spree during the early 1980s, perpetuated by Tucker and his wisecracking cohorts (Danny Glover and a deliciously deadpan Tom Waits). Sissy Spacek is an ideal match for Redford’s rock-solid performance, while Casey Affleck’s detective-on-the-trail keeps the story moving by reminding us that Tucker should really face justice.

Not an all-time great but a beautifully shot, well-paced story with some charismatic performances, The Old Man & the Gun is another promising check next to Lowery’s name, a fitting end to Redford’s time on the call sheet, and a welcome reminder (particularly when sitting in an audience made up primarily of contemporaries of the cast) that there’s always time for one final escapade.

View the trailer for The Old Man & the Gun here.


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