Review: The Company You Keep

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The Company You Keep

Robert Redford's newest film The Company You Keep is a charmingly small movie with a larger-than-life cast. It tells the story of members of the Weather Underground, a radical political group from the late Sixties who were well known for both their opposition to the Vietnam War and the use of violence to deliver their message. The Company You Keep deals primarily with the aftermath of this violence.

During this group's heyday, some of the members decided to rob a bank. During the robbery, a security guard is killed and many members of the group are forced to go underground. After four decades underground, the first crack in their wall of secrecy breaks when Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon), one of the bank robbers, is captured at a gas station near Albany, New York. Soon after, the news of Sharon's arrest reaches the desk of Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf), a young ambitious reporter for a struggling newspaper in Albany. After a well-deserved razzing by his editor, Shepard decides to follow up on the story of  Solarz's involvement with the Weather Underground.

While following up on leads, Shepard meets Jim Grant (Redford), a local political activist lawyer. Shepard's suspicions are raised when he's abruptly brushed off. After some investigation, Shepard reaches the conclusion that Grant is actually Nick Sloan, another another suspect in the bank robbery. Soon after, Shepard's paper runs an article implicating Grant/Sloan in the robbery and forcing him to run from the FBI. The remainder of the film is spent in a cat-and-mouse chase between Grant, Shepard and the FBI with a few unexpected twists and turns.

The Company You Keep

The strongest attribute of The Company You Keep is the cast. The two leads deliver strong performances. Redford's role as a crusading lawyer, father and political activist is convincing. I see many parallels in LaBeouf's role as a struggling reporter and his real-life career, as an talented actor still developing his craft. The role of Shepard was made for LaBeouf.

Along with the two strong leads, this film has one of the most powerful supporting casts I've seen in some time: Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Julie Christie, Anna Kendrick, Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins, Brit Marling, Terrence Howard, Sam Elliott, Stephen Root and Nick Nolte. The beauty of this "A" supporting cast is how Redford uses them in his film. While not in huge roles, the actors bring their unique qualities to their respective characters. Nolte and Sarandon stood out portraying two characters I would have liked to know more about.

The screenplay Lem Dobbs (based on a Neil Gordon book) delivers a charming story of redemption and closure. While the overall story is fairly predictable, it does keep you guessing in the right places and provides foundation for some good performances.

Decent dramas are few and far between in today's film world. If you are looking for a charming movie with strong performances, The Company You Keep is the film for you.