If you come to The Old Man (Disney+) like I did – not knowing the first thing about it, except that it stars Jeff Bridges, who is pretty good in everything – then you’ll watch the first 15 minutes and think: boy, this is slow. Grindingly slow.
It seems to be about an old man (well, Bridges is 72) called Dan Chase, whose wife has died. Chase lives a solitary existence with only his two dogs for company, and a concerned daughter on the end of the phone. He suffers from anxiety and worries that he’s showing the early signs of dementia, although his doctor says he’s fine. He gets up several times in the night to have a pee.
Normally I’d say don’t read on if you haven’t watched it because spoilers are coming – but really, do read on, because then I can tell you that this isn’t a bleak study of a widower that will bore you to tears. You will release this at around the 15-minute mark, when someone breaks into Chase’s house and he shoots them, sets up the scene to fool the police, then grabs a stash of guns and money from under the floorboards. Not your average pensioner.
It turns out that Chase is an ex-CIA man who has been in hiding for years after some business in Afghanistan. He was a good guy but did some bad things in the name of the US government, and his past is finally catching up with him. This is problematic for his former colleague, Harold Harper (John Lithgow, aged 76), who is now a big deal in the FBI and wants Chase’s exploits to stay covered up.
Future episodes fill in the backstory, with actors playing the two leads as their younger selves. They also brighten things up a bit, because most of episode one seems to take place in the dark. It is based on a thriller by Thomas Perry and the flashbacks aren’t half as good as the present day stuff, mostly because Bridges elevates the material.
There are shades of The Fugitive and Rambo and last year’s Bob Odenkirk film, Nobody. And there’s a bit of wish-fulfilment here: despite his advancing years, Chase can still beat up men half his age. For an action thriller, though, it can still be a bit slow at times. Chase isn’t afraid to get into fights – but he does take quite a while to get his breath back afterwards.