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The Company You Keep (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 15, 2023

The Company You Keep


Starring Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Sam Elliott, Jackie Evancho, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Susan Sarandon, Stephen Root and Lexie Huber.

Screenplay by Lem Dobbs.

Directed by Robert Redford.

Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. 125 minutes. Rated R.

The conservative blogosphere is all atwitter that Robert Redford's latest film romanticizes the 60s rebel group The Weather Underground. And while, yes, the movie does take a look at that group and how their violent protests changed the lives of people who believed in the cause, it could hardly be called an idealistic take.

Instead, it looks at the cost of these youthful indiscretions, and how they resonate in the lives for decades after the act is done.

It makes for an interesting idea for a political thriller, a somewhat jaded, but mostly open-hearted look at the costs of good people allowing their good intentions to go bad and how innocent people can get swept up in the undertow of the fallout.

The movie starts with a normal suburban housewife and mother (Susan Sarandon) suddenly getting arrested by the FBI for her part in a protest 40 years early that went very wrong, which had led to the death of a security guard.

It turns out that the woman had been a part of the Weather Underground and had spent the past 40 years of her life hiding in plain sight, always fearing the law would figure out who she had been once upon a time.

A mutual friend suggests she hire a local lawyer named Jim Grant (Robert Redford), a 60-something widower with a young daughter. While Grant demurs, instead suggesting a lawyer with a more compatible specialty, the attorney's short involvement in the case puts him in the sights of both a self-absorbed reporter looking for a huge story (Shia LaBeouf) and the FBI (as represented by a headstrong officer played by Terrence Howard and his younger underling Anna Kendrick).

Soon it becomes clear that Grant was another one of the fugitives who was wanted for the guard's death. Instead of waiting to be taken in, Grant drops his stepdaughter (played by singer Jackie Evancho) with his brother (Chris Cooper) and goes on the run, following an underground railroad of former rebel co-horts (including Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, Julie Christie and Sam Elliott) trying to prove him innocent.

He takes the feds and the reporter on a winding trail, often escaping with just moments to spare while planting the seeds of doubt in the young writer.

Beyond being an enjoyably knotty suspense tale, The Company You Keep is also an intriguing look at the changing political commitments of different generations.

Redford does good double duty as star and director, keeping the story moving from behind the scenes while doing the heavy lifting in front of the camera. He is aided by an incredibly deep and accomplished cast who make even the script's periodic stretches of logic feel realistic.

Redford is obviously trying to relive some of the glory years of 70s cinema (and who better to do so?) While The Company You Keep is not quite on the level of his earlier films like Three Days of The Condor or All the President's Men, it is still a very good approximation. It shows the idealism and the cost of political unrest in an intriguing and different manner, rarely becoming preachy and always putting the story ahead of any political agenda.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved. Posted: April 5, 2013.


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