A film that asks what happens to radical activists once they settle down and have families, The Company You Keep features a wondrous cast of Hollywood veterans alongside some fresh talent. Seeing Robert Redford, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins and Brendan Gleeson together in the same film is a pretty good reason to get excited. Such a cast, however, did make me realise how much of Hollywood’s output these days is only concerned with younger stars, and whilst the presence of Shia LeBeouf, Anna Kendrick and Brit Marling is great, you have to wonder whether the younger characters were seen as a means to getting the film greenlit.
Redford plays Jim Grant, a former member of the radical left organisation, Weather Underground, and who is now a practising lawyer with an 11 year old daughter. When a previous associate of his, Sharon Solarz, is finally caught by the FBI, he realises it’s only a matter of time before the rest of their coterie are rounded up and taken away from their loved ones. Thus begins a race against time to confront not only his former associates but to reconcile with his past.
The film is an old school thriller through and through, and whilst the film is never boring, one wouldn’t exactly call it high octane. The narrative is too concerned with depth of character and asking difficult questions – does family take precedence over a life-long dedication to activism? – than it is with interspersing exposition with car chases. As such, some may not have the patience, especially if they’ve been lured by the somewhat misleading trailer.
Whilst it boasts a stunning array of well-written and perfectly portrayed characters, The Company You Keep fails to satisfactorily end many of the smaller sub-plots. Jim is absent for a good portion of the film as we get to know the ancillary players, so that when the conclusion focusses only on Redford’s and LaBeouf’s characters, it’s a bit of a let-down. In this respect, the film bites off more than it can chew, and this may be as a consequence of wanting to give the younger roles increased screen time.
The Company You Keep is a very capable thriller with some fantastic performances, and whilst it asks some truly interesting questions, the narrative falls short of feeling complete. It may be that the book on which the film is based does this more capably, but as it stands, this is a good film, not a perfect one.Rating: