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USA 2012
Directed by
Robert Redford
122 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

The Company You Keep

Synopsis: In the 1960s real-life radical protest group The Weather Underground was infamous for its violent anti-Establishment activities. Today, several are still wanted for a botched bank robbery in which a guard was shot and killed. Four decades later most of the fugitives have changed identities and are living peaceful suburban lives. That is, until Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) decides to turn herself in and FBI agent (Terence Howard and Anna Hendrick) goes on the trail of her co-conspirators. For widowed father and lawyer, Jim Grant (Robert Redford), this could mean trouble, especially when ambitious young local reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) is determined to expose the truth.

It is understandable that as a member of the 60s generation and well-known for his Left liberal leanings Robert Redford took on board this fact-based story.  Redford tries to give audiences both sides of the picture - the idealism of the times and the deeply felt hostility young people had to the Vietnam war but also the cost of violence for whatever reason – and asks can we write off such things as the folly of youth or decades later are the perpetrators still accountable for their actions? Where do remorse, guilt and the passage of time come in? Even more critically, are all the characters still wanted by the law actually guilty of such myth-enshrouded crimes?

Whilst the script of The Company You Keep, adapted from a novel of the same name by Neil Gordon, is tense at times, thanks to its quotient of thriller-style ingredients, it opts for a relatively simplistic development and a too-neat resolution of its issues. That said, the real strength of this film is the fine, fine cast.

Julie Christie plays Mimi Lurie, an ideological hardliner who carries the same anti-Establishment views that she did as a young woman. Since the 60s she has had several relationships and as many identities and is the only person who knows the real truth of who was present at the ill-fated robbery. Now in her early seventies, Christie looks amazing and convinces completely in her part. Brendan Gleeson is strong as Henry Osborne, a retired cop, who also knows some rather dark secrets. Add to the mix Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci and Redford himself as a widowed older father carrying some heavy moral baggage and you have an ensemble of top-notch veterans playing characters who no doubt resonate with the actors' own memories. Of the younger cast, Shia LaBoeuf impresses as an  aggravatingly dogged investigative journalist whilst Brit Marling as Rebecca, the policeman’s daughter, is also effective.

Despite its soft-pedalling with the political issues, both past and present, and its conventional format, the thought-provoking issues it raises and the top-notch performances, not to mention a judicious use of music means that The Company You Keep has plenty to recommend itself.




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