The Company You Keep


Robert Redford has assembled a stellar cast of well known actors for his new film The Company You Keep. Once more we have Redford starring in a film about the search for the truth. Only this time, unlike the classic 1976 film All The President’s Men, Redford is not portraying an intrepid reporter. He is instead the person that everyone is looking for.

Rather than having two reporters, like Woodward and Bernstein, we have just one reporter, a Ben Shepard, played by Shia LaBoeuf. Shepard works for the Albany Sun Times instead of the Washington Post, and when we meet him, he is being reamed out by his editor Ray Fuller, played by the always great Stanley Tucci, for missing a story of national importance that happened nearby.

Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) has been apprehended by the FBI. She has been wanted for more than thirty years as a suspect in a bank robbery that went bad, resulting in a by-stander being killed. At the time, Solarz was a part of the Weather Underground, a radical off shoot of the SDS.

Solarz and other members of the bank robbers went off the grid and were never captured. They assumed new identities and basically had hid in plain sight for the last 30 plus years. Since the nearest FBI office was in Albany, Shepard was sent by his editor to get the story and Solarz agreed to an interview.

And that sets the story in motion. Solarz was never in favor of violence, and now that her own children were adults, and her own parents had passed on, she felt it was time to turn herself in. Shepard digs away and discovers that another suspect in the same bank robbery, one Nick Sloan, had taken on the identity of Jim Grant, a practicing attorney in the Albany area.

And that sets Redford’s character in motion.

In setting up the story, that’s about all you need to know.

With a screenplay by Lem Dobbs adapted by Neil Gordon‘s novel, Redford has an intriguing story to tell. And with the exceptional cast which also includes Julie Christie, Sam Elliot, Terence Howard, Anna Kendrick, Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson, and  Brit Marling – you would have expected this film to be a huge hit.

Only it won’t be because – truth be told, Redford at 76, is a bit too old to play a fugitive on the lam. And with the way he’s been set up in the role of the reporter Shepard, Shia La Boeuf comes off as nerdy looking and yet obnoxiously arrogant. You’ll like the way Nolte, Jenkins, Christie, and Sarandon play their roles – but the two male leads don’t work all that well.

There’s another problem too – Vietnam protests, Weathermen, SDS, and such, are things that will be remembered, fondly or otherwise, by people born in the late 40’s and 50’s. These topics might bring forth memories for people of a certain age – but not necessarily for majority of the demographic of those that go to the movies. So Redford’s market for the film is already pre-shrunk.

Finally – there’s the direction itself. The film is very soft. It has no edge to it. The only passion we see is when Jenkins, and Christie, and Sarandon tell us about how it was then – but clearly they’ve been living different lives since then.

One character, Donal Firzgerald (Nolte) tells Redford, – Yeah, we all died. Some of  us came back.

The action is soft, as are the chases. One could say that Redford knows what he needed in a political/suspense thriller, and he included the necessaries – only with out much of a bite. And that’s on him. Dobb’s script is nothing special either. We don’t get anything we didn’t see coming. There’s no surprises, no twists, and no revelations.

Just the truth. As Redford sees it and he wants us to consider it for what it is worth. Yes, I think I enjoyed a film without bullets, explosions, and high speed car chases. And on that score Redford has delivered a thoughtful film. But there’s a cost and that would be the mild Redfordian lecture that comes built in.

As the film winds down, we get this from Redford as Jim Grant who has been tracked all the ways deep into the woods of the U.P. (that’s Michigan’s Upper Peninsula). He talking to Shepard:

Secrets are a dangerous thing, Ben. We all think we want to know them, but if you’ve kept one to yourself, you come to understand that doing so, you may learn something about someone else, but you also discover something about yourself. I hope you’re ready for that.

Three point two five is the rating. I think the film is worth seeing, and even if it is a step into a way-back machine, for those of a certain age, a film with Redford, Christie, Nolte, Sarandon, Jenkins, Tucci, Gleeson et al – should be something you should consider seeing.


2 thoughts on “The Company You Keep

  1. Man I’d see this just for the cast! Too bad it’s not as good as it could’ve been as the premise is quite intriguing. I’ll give it a rent for sure, great review Mike!

    • Thank you Ruth – I think that such a stellar cast is a real tribute to Redford, and for the rest of us, the result is that we see how well Redford is thought of by his fellow actors.

      I haven’t found the cost of this production but I’m sure that the majority of the cast worked on this film because they wanted to rather than for a paycheck.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s