This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Robert Redford's suspenseful new movie about a search for former ‘60s radicals flows with the strong, steady current of vintage "Law & Order," although "The Company You Keep" is not so much "ripped from the headlines" as it is cut and pasted from old news stories and the memories, such as they are, of those who survived the ’60s.
The basic structure, which is tight, was laid down in a novel by Neil Gordon, and the movie is inordinately rich with convincing detail from the novel. These superannuated radicals, played by well-known actors who came to prominence in the ’60s and ’70s, seem like the real thing, and I say that having known a few.
This intelligent thriller's excellent cast also includes the previously dismissible (at least by me) Shia LaBoeuf, who plays Ben Shepard, a cub reporter who is one-third Woodward, one-third Bernstein, one-third hipster and one-hundred-percent wired. "Shy egotists" is how Tom Wolfe described journalists, and LaBoeuf gets that -- you may be a little embarrassed by the pushing and manipulating you sometimes have to do to get a story, but that doesn't stop you from pushing and manipulating, not to mention pretending to be the subject's BFF, or getting up in his or her face.
Redford plays widower Jim Grant, or at least that's the name he has gone by for the past couple of decades while practicing law in upstate New York. He remains one of the suspects in a late-’60s Michigan bank robbery that resulted in a shootout and the death of a security guard. When former radical cohort Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) is arrested nearby, Grant figures he's next and it's time to stash his daughter (Jacqueline Evancho) with his brother (Chris Cooper) and go on the run. Just in time, it turns out.
For reasons we are not privy to until well into the story, Grant's main goal as he heads for the upper Midwest is to locate a former member of the revolutionary Weather Underground, played (splendidly) by Julie Christie. At the same time, he is being pursued by reporter Ben Shepard and by the FBI (Anna Kendrick of "Up in the Air" is splendid as a G-woman). Redford skillfully weaves together several concurrent plot lines so the story makes sense and the film builds to an emotionally satisfying if rather simplistic ending.
Redford does a particularly good job handling exchanges between reporter Shepard and the aging idealists -- or, in one or two cases, ideologues. (The distinction is clearly delineated in the movie.)
The young reporter questions their motives, and they in turn wonder what he has done for the world lately. There is no sugar-coating the fact that a security guard with young children was killed in the blunder-headed bank robbery, and no serious attempt to justify it. At the same time, you do get a pretty thorough exploration of why young people took to the streets in cities and on college campuses across America in the era of the Vietnam War. The movie at times becomes a tad verbose, but Redford mainly makes his points through action, not talk.