The Movie Waffler New Release Review - The Company You Keep | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - The Company You Keep

A young journalist blows the cover of a former activist wanted for a 30 year-old murder.

Directed by: Robert Redford
Starring: Robert Redford, Shia LeBouef, Nick Nolte, Stanley Tucci, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Terrence Howard, Anna Kendrick, Richard Jenkins, Sam Elliott, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson, Brit Marling, Jackie Evancho, Stephen Root

Jim Grant (Robert Redford), once known as Nick Sloan, is a former member of a left-wing activist group that disbanded following the shooting dead of a security guard during a 1980 bank robbery. Under his new identity he has been operating as a lawyer in Albany, New York, while raising his 11 year-old daughter following his wife’s recent death. When Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) is arrested for her part in the robbery, Albany Sun-Times reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LeBeouf) conducts an investigation which leads him to discover Grant’s true identity. Leaving his daughter with her uncle, Grant sets out to track down Mimi Lurie (Julie Christie), the woman responsible for the 1980 killing, hoping to convince her to turn herself in.
When actors turn their hand to directing, it usually results in a certain style of film-making, one more concerned with acting and dialogue than visual story-telling. A film directed by someone more comfortable in front of, rather than behind, the camera, usually resembles an episode of a T.V show in its aesthetic. There are, of course, a few exceptions; Vincent Gallo’s ‘Buffalo 66’, Mel Gibson’s ‘Apocalypto’, and Charles Laughton’s ‘Night of the Hunter’ are immensely cinematic. Usually, however, actor-directors prefer to keep things simple. As a director, Robert Redford’s films have, for the most part, resembled edited versions of T.V mini-series. ‘The Company You Keep’ continues this trend.
It’s easy to see why Redford was drawn to Lem Dobbs’ script, as it combines the plot-lines of two movies he appeared in during his acting heyday of the seventies. The procedural element of a journalist digging deeper into a story despite much opposition is straight out of ‘All the President’s Men’, while the man-on-the-run story-line feels like a geriatric update of his role in ‘Three Days of the Condor’. The former is a gripping drama, arguably the best movie ever made concerning journalism. The latter is a fun thriller in the style of Hitchcock.
Redford fails to combine the two into a satisfying whole. His movie is at its best when focusing on LeBouef’s investigation, as the young star gives his most mature performance to date, shaking off the baggage of the ‘Transformers’ series. Watching Redford’s attempts to escape capture at times provokes unintended laughter, with the 76 year-old hopping over fences like it’s 1973 again.
Ultimately, the film is saved from disaster by the impressive cast assembled by Redford. Just when things start to get dull, another quality character actor like Brendan Gleeson, Stanley Tucci, or Chris Cooper turns up to get you through the next couple of scenes. It’s a story which needs more fleshing out though, and the final 30 minutes attempt to cram a little too much in too short a time in order to wrap up sub-plots. Add an extra hour to develop things and this could have made a decent two-part T.V mini-series, rather than a rushed and schizophrenic feature film.