Robert Redford hasn’t made a film that has knocked my socks off since 1997’s The Horse Whisperer.  Now, at 76 years old, the Oscar-winning director (never won for acting) has a new political thriller, his first film since the panned Lions for Lambs in 2007.  Redford keeps quite good company with a dazzling cast that would make your head spin.  However, he does not make a film unless he feels he has something very important to say or offer to the world of cinema.  With The Company You Keep, which is done without special effects and explosions, Redford reminds us that a thriller can be smart, and peels this thing like an onion.  The only let down is that we know what is in that onion before the characters do.

 “No group was more successful in carrying out attacks on US soil,” FBI agent Cornelius (Howard) explains.  The group was called the Weather Underground, and during the Vietnam War they protested violently, and a few of them took that violence too far.  They were never caught or tried until the time the film takes place.  Sharon Solarz (Sarandon) is arrested after being on the FBI’s most wanted list for over 30 years. Working the story, a beat journalist, Ben Shepard (Lebeouf), discovers that local Albany lawyer Jim Grant (Redford) is actually one of the other wanted members, and pushes him out of his 30-year fake identity and puts him on the run.

 Screenwriter Lem Dobbs (Haywire) is no stranger to suspense thrillers, but this screenplay, based on the novel by Neil Gordon, asks the viewer a lot of questions about right and wrong in dealing with those looking back on these crimes. One character turns a corner and says “grow up” to another member who wants to still believe in their radical actions three decades before.  What Redford does so brilliantly here is cast the right actors in the right parts and that is half the suspense, waiting to see who pops up around the next corner.  All of the actors in very small parts become huge pieces in this evolving puzzle.

 The ending just left me unenthusiastic and reflecting on the film’s more implausible moments, of which there are many.  Redford’s character jumps a fence, and Julie Christie, who is 72, is seen hiking up and down the mountains.  This almost lends itself to some of the same jokes aimed at The Expendables, but I wouldn’t dare.  I found LeBeouf to be the real highlight of the film, especially when he speaks with Solarz about her past and asks whether she would repeat her actions.  The film lacks any real “wow” factor, and in the end, the cast is the real selling point; not the story.

 Final Thought – The assembly of actors is more thrilling than the thriller itself.

Grade B-            By: Dustin Chase

Dr. Donna Copeland’s


The Company You Keep is a thriller in the best sense of the word; it is suspenseful and exciting, with an intriguing plot that pulls for ethical and moral considerations having to do with political protests, accountability, journalism, and family values.  The film is based on a novel of the same name written by Neil Gordon, with screenplay written by Lem Dobbs.  Robert Redford’s fine direction and acting in the lead role as Jim Grant demonstrate that he is maintaining his reputation as a filmmaker.  The story moves along seamlessly without lagging, and pulls us into the world of a small group of protesters (Weather Underground) who have been in hiding for 30 years. The excitement and interest in the story is helped along greatly by a stellar cast.  

A major pursuit—which is the basis for the story—gets started when one member of the Weather Underground (Susan Sarandon) decides to turn herself in.  A hungry reporter who is about to be fired (Shia LeBeouf as Ben Shepard) starts nosing around and gets word that a well-known attorney in town, Jim Grant, has turned down a request to defend her.  As he fearlessly and clumsily tries to get a story, the facts he uncovers puts Grant on the run.

 Ben offends the FBI agent Cornelius (Terrence Howard) as much as he does his interviewees, and a competition develops as to who will be first to get the facts and locate the people they are after.  Their pursuit is made easier by Grant, who is seeking the one person who will vouch for his innocence in a bank shootout.  The only way he can find her is to seek out his old comrades.  As clever as he is in eluding his pursuers, he actually leads them right to each one of them.  None of these people want to see him; they have all constructed new lives for themselves, but he is spurred on by the wish to protect his young daughter who lost her mother, his wife, the year before.  If he goes to prison, she will be left without a parent.

 The film prompts questions for discussion about ethical standards for news reporters, the statute of limitations for prosecuting people who have rehabilitated themselves and become responsible citizens, and how best to protest one’s government when it is behaving unconscionably.   Grade:  A