Director: Robert Redford
Studio: Voltage Pictures
Stars: Robert Redford, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci
Things promise to get tense but never really do in the quasi-political thriller The Company You Keep. Directed by Robert Redford from Lem Dobbs' screenplay adaptation of Neil Gordon's novel of the same name, the movie focuses on a snot-nosed, cocky journalist (Shia LaBeouf) who sniffs out an amiable, under-the-radar Albany, New York lawyer and single father (played, improbably, by Robert Redford) who has long concealed his identity as a former member of the ’70s radical activist Weather Underground, a highly controversial group ignited by the anti-Vietnam War movement.
What kicks off as an atmospheric chase turns generic and, worse, arthritic. Redford spends much of the film running not only from LaBeouf and FBI agents Terrence Howard and Anna Kendrick (in a baffling performance) but also toward an elusive, glamorous former colleague who has remained committed to the cause (Julie Christie). Along the way, Redford picks up clues to Christie’s whereabouts from former comrades Richard Jenkins (always good), Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott and Susan Sarandon, the last of whom gets nabbed and imprisoned by the Feds after three decades as a suburban wife and mother. “Our government was killing millions,” she reminds interviewer LaBeouf, who grills her in jail in one of the best moments of the entire film. Too bad Sarandon gets kicked to the curb, because her scenes are written and played with a biting poignancy and complexity sorely absent from the rest of the overly talky, unfocused film.
Along the way, there's much talk about old feuds, resentments, commitments and whether raging against the machine was worth a damn in the long run. After all, as the movie intimates, millions are still being killed. The casting of the aging Redford and his famed, politically impassioned costars gives the movie a resonance and melancholy that hint at what the movie could have been. But The Company You Keep is so fuzzy, shambling and detached that the punch never lands.