Movie Review: 'The Company You Keep,' 2 stars
The Company You Keep
Directed by Robert Redford
Starring Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie
Robert Redford's ninth directorial effort, "The Company You Keep" is a sincere thriller that feels like it has arrived at least a half-decade behind schedule.
The film, about a former Weather Underground militant who is pursued decades later by the FBI, may have resonated around 2008, when Bill Ayers and other real-life radical anti-Vietnam activists were at the forefront of popular consciousness, thanks to right-wing anti-President Obama rhetoric.
Today, in many ways, the movie comes across as yesterday's news.
Redford leads a star-studded ensemble as Jim Grant, an Albany attorney whose past (and real name, Nick Sloan) is rooted out by go-getter newspaper reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf). Grant drops his pre-teen daughter off with his brother Daniel (Chris Cooper) and promptly goes on the run, staying steps ahead of the FBI in a cross-country bid to disprove allegations that he took part in a bank heist during the '70s.
Aside from one tense sequence in a New York hotel -- in which Redford relies on long takes, fluid camera movements and meticulous blocking -- the film suffers from the same malady afflicting the icon's last two behind-the-camera efforts, "Lions for Lambs" and "The Conspirator." Characters talk an awful lot, reflecting on the past and taking stock of who they are and what they've done, but there isn't much in the way of action.
This is didactic cinema, in which Redford and screenwriter Lem Dobbs rely on conversations between the star and old pals, played by Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins and others, to tell us what to make of things. The story of a man's desperate drive to evade law-enforcement capture while righting a wrong should be imbued with an automatic sense of urgency that this movie simply doesn't have.
Factor in the dated LaBeouf character -- the film doesn't really get modern journalism -- the fact that the central mystery is disappointingly one-dimensional and the inescapable truth that Redford is simply too suave to ever seem like he's in much danger, and you're left with a well-meaning, well-cast flick that's stillborn from the start.