The Sundance kid himself, Robert Redford returns behind and in front of the camera for the first time since 2007 (Lions For Lambs) for The Company You keep. An old school, slow-burn drama-thriller that along with Redford stars Shia LaBeouf, Stanley Tucci, Terrance Howard, Nick Nolte and about 400 other well-recognised Hollywood actors. But behind the A-list cast and director, is there a good film? Does old-school storytelling and direction result in quality? Find out after the jump.
Jim Grant (Redford) is a humble single parent and a model citizen. He has a successful law firm, a loving relationship with his younger daughter, a beautiful white picket fence. He’s the sort of guy you’d elect as the representative of your council and feel good about it. So what could possibly bring this all crashing down? Enter Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) a young, nosy and determined journalist in Albany working on a story involving Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) a mother of two who’s arrested by the FBI for the murder of a security guard over 30 years ago during a violent siege organized by a radical group named The Weather Underground.
During the investigation, Jim’s name pops up, and when Ben looks into his relationship with Sharon, he ends up discovering almost by accident who Jim really is. His identity is published in Ben’s news story and Jim is now on the run from the FBI and every other authority agency imaginable. Ben continues to investigate Jim and his association with the radical group; and finds out more than he bargained for, annoying both the FBI and Jim in the process. Jim now needs to work hard and fast clear his name; but what exactly could possible make that possible? In addition, what more will Ben discover if he rummages deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of this 30-year-old story?
Robert Redford is known to be a fantastic director and an even better actor. He won an Oscar for his directing efforts in 1980 for Ordinary People and his acting credits include Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Sting and The Horse Whisperer…Okay, maybe don’t get too excited about that last one, but the fact remains, his legacy is one that’s spanned for many decades, and for good reason. His latest effort, although falling on a subdued third act, is an intriguing, traditional yet effective dramatic thriller that is determined on getting right the mechanics of its story and characters; rather than fishing for forced tension or superfluous spectacle. It’s a testament to Redford’s direction and proves that story-telling [handling] is fundamental.
Performances from the cast are superb; but this is no surprise considering the cast involved (basically half the contacts in Redford’s phone book). I’m not normally a fan of LaBeouf’s performances (he was rather refined and outstanding in Even Stevens however), but this is a serious step up. Could it be due to the cold, stone-faced nature of the character? Maybe, but he channels different expression, reactions; and I believed every single one of them. It wass wonderful to see him display some acting-chops. The screenplay written by Lem Dobbs (The Score, Dark City) based on the novel by Neil Gordon is very concise with its story, giving us only what we need to know and not wasting any time. The Company You Keep only really falters in the last half an hour, when the story loses some steam and stops being quite as captivating as it was earlier. Unfortunately the ending doesn’t pack the emotional satisfaction you’d imagine it would when watching the film, which is engaging and captivating, really drawing you in for the majority of the run-time.
Having said that, The Company You Keep is a strong and enjoyable film that embraces concise storytelling and characters with more than one dimension and half a brain. You’ll be reminded at times of films of the 70’s and the crisp attention to detail within a narrative, such a detail should be cherished as we don’t quite see it very often.
By Chris Elena
Director: Robert Redford
Writer(s): Lem Dobbs, Neil Gordon (novel)
Starring: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Cooper, Susan
Sarandon, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci, Julie Christie
Runtime: 125 Minutes
Release Date(s): Australia: April 18, 2013; New Zealand: May 2, 2013; USA: April 5, 2013