Film Capsule: The Company You Keep

Robert Redford still has important stories left to tell. And what’s more, he’s apt to tell them. So apt, in fact, that he’s willing to bypass the Hollywood system entirely. Redford not only appears in most of the films he directs, he lends a hand to co-producing, as well. That’s quite a triple bill, especially for a big-screen icon in his 70s.

And the irony of it is, age appears to be the lone sticking point that keeps Redford’s latest film from reaching great heights. The Company You Keep is a well-written, oddly relevant tale about a group of 70s radicals (i.e., The Weather Underground), many of whom are suddenly forced to revisit the sins of their past. The film boasts a remarkable senior cast (Susan Sarandon, Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins, Sam Elliott, Julie Christie, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson, etc.).  But the average age of said actors is somewhere around 66. And the rust, well, the rust is on pretty embarrassing display here. You can see it in every aspect from the awkward delivery to the slow-moving chase scenes.

While Redford deserves credit for remaining true to who these characters might be, the on-screen interaction does not make for easy viewing. And the truth is, I feel extremely bad saying that, specifically because this movie triumphs on so many other levels (including its ability to rise above Shia LaBeouf). Company takes a holistic view on a number of issues, including the long-term expense of injuring someone else to achieve your own goals. Much like he did in Lions for Lambs, Redford really plays up the student-teacher aspect in this film, drawing specific attention to the role of mainstream media in the age of website journalism. In the end, what it all adds up to is a fairly unique study in the long-lingering effects of running away from one’s past, if not a modern parable about the spoils of avoiding that type of a past altogether.

(The Company You Keep arrives in limited release today, with plans for a national rollout to follow.)