Robert Redford's 'The Company You Keep' Is The Adult Drama Your Parents Want To Watch

By Kathryn Schroeder
Released: April 5, 2013
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Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is a public interest lawyer and single father raising his daughter in the tranquil suburbs of Albany, New York. Grant's world is turned upside down,when a brash young reporter named Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) exposes his true identity as a former 1970s antiwar radical fugitive wanted for murder. After living for more than 30 years underground, Grant must now go on the run. With the FBI in hot pursuit, he sets off on a cross-country journey to track down the one person that can clear his name.
Film Review
Robert Redford returns to acting, and plays double-duty as director, in the dramatic feature The Company You Keep. The movie is that rare adult drama you see maybe once a year in cinemas. It does not have any flashy special effects, nor does it feature the hottest beefcake actors or young starlet; unless you consider Shia LeBeouf swoon worthy--I for one do not. The Company You Keep is a movie your parents would want to watch, and that does not mean you shouldn't watch it as well. The demographic for The Company You Keep is not the most desirable for marketers, but the inclusion of such a film in the struggling diversity of genre pictures today is much needed. It is with great relief that it manages to be a well-executed dramatic feature.

The Company You Keep dates back to the Vietnam War, and a group of radicals called the "Weatherman" who were considered domestic terrorists. One fateful night during a bank robbery a guard was shot and killed, and four of the members found themselves on the FBI's most wanted list. They all managed to escape, change their identities and go on the run. One was caught and died in prison, the other three were never heard from again...until now. On her way to turn herself in, Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) is captured. A journalist of a small local newspaper takes it upon himself to dig deep into the story and as he uncovers information it leads him to Jim Grant (Robert Redford), a widowed public interest lawyer who is raising his daughter in the suburbs. Jim Grant realizes it is only a matter of time before his real identity is discovered and goes on the run to clear his name and thus begins the search for the truth, from journalist Ben Shepard (Shia LeBeouf) and Jim Grant's points of views.

The Company You Keep is full of interesting twists and turns, even if they are predictable for the most part. It delves into politics, and how people's views can change with time and reflection. The left vs. the right is at play but never in an offensive manner where one side is seen as right and the other wrong. There is not a raw edge to the story, or deep emotional depth. It carries out the formulaic story as needs to be done, without veering far from genre conventions. The performances are for the most part well-acted, aside from a few letdowns that are easily excusable. Redford maintains his skills as a performer and director, and gives the viewer exactly what they need from the story without leaving any areas open for questioning or real debate. The Company You Keep is gripping without ever reaching any real thrill. You know how it is going to end and that reality is acceptable because the movie as a whole is entertaining to watch. The Company You Keep does not need to be anything more than it is and that is quite simply a good movie for an adult viewer to enjoy.
He may always be The Sundance Kid to some, and Hubbell to others, but no matter what character Robert Redford is playing he exudes the confidence needed for believability The Company You Keep is in no way a part that requires him to delve deep or stretch his talents--the role of Jim Grant is very much a stereotypical desperate man on the run, sans violent acts. Redford manages to perform just as expected, as well as direct his other actors as needed. The real shocking performance comes from Transformers bred Shia LaBeouf, an actor who tiptoes around being someone to hate or like; this is mostly due in part to his off-screen antics that quite often involve mouthing off negatively about his past jobs, costars, and the like. In The Company You Keep LeBeouf actually manages to be a likable anti-hero who does not annoy the viewer. He also mananges to hold his own on screen against Robert Redford's talents, never appearing to be the less experienced actor or lost in his shadow. As a newsman who is eager to get the story that will make his career he is inquisitive, a tad sneaky, and makes mistakes--it is his fault Jim Grant has to go on the run in the first place--but never annoying or standoffish. You actually want to see where LeBeouf's Ben Shepard's story is going to lead, and what other secrets he will uncover; you learn to respect Shepard because of his tenacity.

Additionally, there are the women of The Company You Keep. Susan Sarandon is magnificent during her brief screen time as Sharon Solarz. After being arrested she is placed in a holding room with LeBouf's Ben Shepard and asked about how she feels about the crimes she committed thirty years ago. Her response is chilling as she stares him down, her unflinching belief that they were doing what needed to be done, and the justification she gives for violence by any means neccesary is delivered with such conviction the moment sucks all of the air out of the room. Sarandon commands the screen and it is unfortunate she does not appear more in the film. One the other end is the woman Jim Grant is on the hunt to find, fellow freedom fighter Mimi Lurie, played by Julie Christie. Mimi has been on the run for thirty years, having ditched one "" after another when she feared the authorities were close. Christie is meant to be the hard woman, the one who has grown cold over the years because of the life she has been leading; it has also made her incredibly selfish. There is a vulnerability that Christie should bring to the role in order for the viewer to feel engaged with her that she never manages to do. To call her the one weak link in the very talented group of actors is far too harsh a statement but she is one that stands out as being less-satisfactory than all of the others. Rounding out the ladies are Brit Marling (Another Earth) and Anna Kendrick who both play easily forgettable even if important roles in the story. Marling is a large part of the B-storyline but the insistent use of her breathy self-important tone is growing tiresome in her performances. Her Rebecca Osborne should have been an opportunity to break-away from her previous characters that are all very similar to show something new--she does not.

Release Date
April 5, 2013
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