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Jeff Bridges thrills on the small screen in exciting new series

The Old Man pushes the thriller narrative into unpredictable directions. With Jeff Bridges in his first foray onto the smaller screen, it is compulsive viewing

Based on the best-selling novel by Thomas Perry and starring Hollywood giant Jeff Bridges in his first foray onto the smaller screen, The Old Man is a compelling thriller that is anything but boilerplate.

Now streaming exclusively on Disney+ the engrossing seven-part series, adapted by Black Sails creators Jonathan E. Steinberg and Robert Levine, unravels the story of the aptly named Dan Chase (Bridges) an ex-CIA agent who has lived on the run and in the shadows for thirty years, taking shelter in anonymity after his time spent in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion.

When an intruder crash-lands into his orderly, subterranean existence, Chase is forced out of hiding and the FBI are once again on his trail eager to apprehend him and for Chase to disclose his past dealings with an Afghan warlord and reveal what exactly happened before he disappeared off the grid.

Heading up this mission is a former C.I.A. colleague of Chase’s - the formidable, inscrutable Harold Harper played with enigmatic stoicness by John Lithgow. Harper and his team including his sharp protege Angela (Alia Shawkat) and the boisterous, unpopular CIA liaison Raymond Waters (EJ Bonilla) begin to piece together Chase’s backstory from his days living as ‘John’ in Afghanistan to his dark, violent present where he dispenses with his pursuers with the agility and savagery of a man half his age.


‘Hollowed-out and grizzled Jeff Bridges imbues the ultra-masculine Chase with a sense of fragility and raw emotion’

Bridge’s Chase is essentially unknowable even to the daughter who he frequently calls through a series of different mobile phones to keep her informed of his movements. He is a hollowed-out, grizzled figure, used up by the machinations of war and desensitised after the death of his beloved wife. When he arrives at the door of Zoe (Amy Brenneman) to take refuge in her guest house their relationship moves with a sense of warmth and ease but there is an undercurrent of menace with the twinkle in Chase’s eye quickly turning to cool steel on occasion. This tension of never exactly understanding Chase or his motivations makes The Old Man compulsive viewing.

He may be sphinx-like but Chase is not the blank-faced, rustic hero synonymous with the genre. Jeff Bridges imbues the ultra-masculine Chase with a sense of fragility and raw emotion. There is a naturalism to his performance that permeates every line, injected with a moving authenticity and humanity.

Chase can fight like a younger man but his face and body show the rigours of ageing - where every punch could be his last and there is a wry weariness that Bridge’s brings to the character that gives The Old Man a richness and depth. Coupled with the fact that Bridges was diagnosed with lymphoma and then contracted Covid-19 during his cancer treatment, his return to the physicality of filming the series is nothing short of astonishing.

Knitted in between these brutal action sequences and the main cat and mouse storyline of the series, shot with bruising precision by director Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming) there are haunting, sometimes tender flashbacks that show Chase at different stages of his life.

From his time in Afghanistan, where as a young man (played by Bill Heck) he is full of arrogance and invincible idealism believing he can make a difference to his later years dealing with his wife Abbey (Succession’s Hiam Abbass) who succumbs to Huntington’s Disease. Through these flashbacks and scenes of Chase living out a rough and ready existence with his two loyal Rottweilers, he is less of an identikit brooding antihero and more of a fully rounded three-dimensional character. A relatable man of a certain age who must use the bathroom more than once during the night.

‘He is less of an identikit brooding antihero and a relatable man of a certain age who must use the bathroom more than once during the night’

As the net closes in and Chase continues to try to outmanoeuvre the FBI the series concentrates on the curious dynamic between this dangerous stranger and Zoe, an anxious, lost divorcee coping with debilitating depression. She readily (perhaps hastily) lets this fugitive into her world before truly understanding the consequences.

The finely tuned, high-wire act between Bridges and Brenneman as they attempt to delve deeper behind their character’s social masks is captivating. It is not a mismatched Bonnie and Clyde instantaneous romance, it’s something stranger and more offbeat, a desperate final grasp at an escape hatch from their twin tormented existences.

The Old Man does not deal in commonplace tropes, it pushes the thriller narrative into unpredictable directions, dealing with Chase’s age, the ghosts of his past and his growing paranoia from being isolated for so long but also perhaps a signal of the passing of time and his memory fading.

Every character is at odds with themselves. John Lithgow’s Harold Harper is also touched by a tragedy that unmoors his staid sense of self and young Angela (Alia Shawkat) is also struggling to understand who she is.

Nothing is fixed or permanent in this world. Throughout the series, names, places, jobs, families, can disappear without a trace. No-one is ever exactly who they say they are.

With its concentration on Chase, the radical who went beyond the basics of his assignment in Afghanistan, The Old Man could easily slip into the worn fables of the wild west, of good and evil played out on the plains and the unimpeachable, solitary hero. But instead, it is about the ugliness of warfare, the complex shades of grey that bleed into ideas of identity and nationhood. It is about those mutable truths in life, of undisclosed worlds and the secrets, those connections to the past that have the potential to annihilate the present.

Thought provoking as it is entertaining and with a bravura performance from Jeff Bridges, The Old Man is a riveting, pacy drama that can pack an unexpected emotional punch.

The Old Man is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.