‘The Old Man’: Elements of Graham Greene’s Vietnam-era ‘Quiet American’

Lee Heidhues 7.24.2022

Our daughter and I were exchanging messages earlier today and she cued me into ‘The Old Man’.  I need some well produced exciting escapist entertainment to get my mind out of the San Francisco political swamp in the dog days of summer.

When I think of Jeff Bridges I first think of the 2016 film ‘Hell or High Water’. In that film Bridges portrays a Texas lawman working his last assignment. That film is deep. When I saw ‘Hell or High Water’ six years ago I thought it a precursor to what the soon to be Trump era would become.

Taking time to watch both the film and the FX seven part series makes for interesting viewing.


Excerpted from The New York Times 6.15.2022

With the advent of peak TV, and its bidding wars for talent, came a rush of film legends to smaller screens. Within the last decade, performers at the level of Al PacinoJane FondaJulia Roberts and Christopher Walken suddenly discovered that it wasn’t beneath their dignity to star in a regular old television series.

It may seem as if nearly everyone who matters had already made the move, but this week TV snares another big name: 72-year-old Jeff Bridges, a true member of the aristocracy of American acting.

He has made a few guest appearances over the years, including with his father on “Sea Hunt” and “The Lloyd Bridges Show” 60 years ago. But “The Old Man,” a moody, deliberate, seven-episode thriller premiering Thursday on FX, is the first series he can call his own.

The Old Man II

Bridges plays Dan Chase, a former C.I.A. agent who got involved in bad business in Afghanistan during that country’s war with the Soviet Union and had to go underground; he is flushed out of hiding when the series begins, and we watch as he goes on the run and tries to figure out who is after him, so many years down the road.

Chase is a Cold War true believer who went beyond the bounds of his assignment in Afghanistan, and there are elements of Graham Greene’s Vietnam-era quiet American in his character — the warrior whose naïve idealism and certainty (combined with a weakness for a local woman) makes him dangerous.

He also has an artless arrogance that can be charming right up until it turns frightening, a quality showcased in his accidental relationship with Zoe McDonald (Amy Brenneman), a lonely woman he encounters during his flight.

Bridges, the most natural and authentically human actor around, navigates the currents of Chase’s character with ease; he’s absolutely convincing at every moment, even when the writing gets a little too ornate and preachy, which it does with some regularity. And physically, he does a brilliant job of conveying Chase’s combination of lethality and frailty, a condition that is played more for poignancy than action-movie triumphalism.

Top Photo:  Jeff Bridges and Amy Brenneman in ‘The Old Man’