Jeff Bridges delivers one of his most compelling performances in The Old Man, playing Dan Chase, a weary, disillusioned CIA agent who’s been living incognito in Vermont since he went rogue decades ago.
He’s a gruff widower, guarded by two ferociously loyal dogs; ever cautious, he communicates with his beloved daughter Emily only by burner phones. When he’s ‘discovered’ and assassins invade his home, Dan goes on the run, picking up a lonely, troubled divorcee, Zoe McDonald (Amy Brenneman), along the way.
Bespectacled John Lithgow plays Harold Harper, FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, who’s trying to get the upper hand in an increasingly frustrating endeavor. At his side is his protégé, Angela Adams (Alia Shawkat), whose past turns out to be treacherously intertwined with Dan Chase.
It begins 30 years ago when both Chase and Harper are seen as younger versions of themselves, covertly stationed in Afghanistan with the Mujahideen during the Soviet occupation. Back then, the US supported warlord Faraz Hamzad (Navid Neegahban) whose wife/advisor (Leem Lubany) ran off with Dan Chase, incurring Hamzad’s continuing wrath.
Adapted from Thomas Perry’s novel by showrunner Jonathan E. Steinberg and co-creator Robert Levine, it’s a pursuit thriller with flashbacks and dreamscapes, its urgency augmented by T Bone Burnett’s score.
With its unexpected twists and turns, it’s a bit reminiscent of FX’s hit The Americans, complete with multiple identities, disguises and a thought-provoking examination of family.
Watch for Joel Grey in a memorable cameo as a menacing CIA legend, the titular ‘Old Man’ connecting with both Dan and Harold.
Off-screen, during the production, there was even more drama when then-72 year-old Jeff Bridges was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and infected by Covid-19 during chemotherapy. The cancer went into remission but the virus – necessitating five weeks in intensive care – nearly killed him.
Writers are now working on season two, scheduled for late 2023.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, The Old Man is an intriguing, existential 8 – with all seven episodes streaming on FX.