Robert Redford’s first movie role since 2005 and his ninth directorial effort, The Company You Keep, based on the novel by Neil Gordon, is a fictionalized account of the radical anti-war movement called the Weather Underground. Old news footage at the beginning of the film informs us that members of the group were charged with murder in the accidental death of a security guard in a bank robbery gone wrong and scheming to blow up government buildings.
In the present, Former Weather Underground member Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon), had been living a quiet life in Vermont with her husband and children until she found herself arrested by the FBI while filling her car with gas near Albany, New York. Her arrest piques the interest of a cocky Albany newspaper reporter named Ben Shephard (Shia LeBeouf), who sees an opportunity to make a name for himself. Going against his editor’s (Stanley Tucci) wishes, Ben works to find ex-radicals who might be able to help him. Through his research, and a few tips from his ex-girlfriend, Diana (Anna Kendrick), an FBI agent, Ben finds lawyer Jim Grant (Redford), who Shepard discovers is actually Weather Underground member Nick Sloan. When Nick realizes Shepard is on to him, he gives his young daughter (Jackie Evancho) to his brother (Chris Cooper) and goes on the run, determined to evade the FBI, and clear his name.
The cast of The Company You Keep is a truly distinguished group—four Oscar winners and six Oscar nominees. Nick Nolte, Julie Christie, Sam Elliot, Richard Jenkins, and Susan Sarandon all play former members of the Weather Underground and do it convincingly. These are all very talented people, and no matter the scene, they hold your attention. Given that this is a dialogue driven piece, Redford wisely keeps things simple, staying away from special effects or showy stunts.
The script by Lem Dobs has some good twists and turns, which comes as no surprise given his past screenplays for The Limey, Haywire and others. As Sloan and Shepard play corresponding detective games, Dobbs is able to keep the audience slightly in the dark while remaining engaged. The whole thing is done in a manner that allows the audience to put together the pieces of the story at the same as Shepard the journalist.
It would be easy for a fairly young actor like Shia LaBeouf to get lost in the cast of heavyweights, but he manages to turn in a natural and convincing performance. Brit Marling appears towards the end of the film as part of a plot twist that works, but extending her into a kind of love interest for LaBeouf’s character seems like an unnecessary move by the screenwriter.
Well constructed and expertly acted, The Company You Keep will likely appeal to Robert Redford fans and those who can relate to, or are interested in the radicalism of the ’60s and ’70s. While aware that we are living in a cyberworld, Redford takes us back to the days when hard-nosed pen and paper reporting was king and asks some interesting questions along the way.
Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Sony’s 1080p presentation is impressive. Shot in 35mm, the film has an excellent level of detail and sharpness is top-notch. Blacks are deep, and shadow delineation is good. Skin tones and contrast are well-balanced throughout. There are no anomalies to speak of.
The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track serves the film very well. Dialogue is clear and concise throughout, while the sound effects are given a nice surround treatment. If there is a problem, it lies in the fact that the track is under used in this film that essentially relies on dialogue.
English and English SDH subtitles are available.
- Behind The Scenes: The Movement (HD, 12 min.) Redford and other cast members discuss what interested them in making the movie.
- Behind The Scenes: The Script, Preparation and the Cast (HD, 18 min.) We get comments from the cast on the red carpet at the movie’s premiere and Redford introducing Brit Marling and Jackie Evancho to the crowd inside the theater.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 min.)
- UV Digital Copy