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The Company You Keep
The Company You Keep
Director: Robert Redford (Ordinary People)
Screenplay: Lem Dobbs (Limey) From the Neil Gordon novel
Cast: Robert Redford (All the President’s Men), Shia LebEOUF
Runtime: 125 min.
by John DeSando
“When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.” Frantz Fanon
In Robert Redford’s The Company You keep, Jim Grant (Redford) is an attorney on the lam for participating in Weather Underground anti-Vietnam activities over 40 years ago. That a bank robbery resulted in the death of a guard has made the revolutionaries fugitives from murder charges.
This political thriller, in which the FBI has finally zeroed in on the robbers because Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) has decided to turn herself in, devolves into a formulaic chase with helicopters and frantic cell calls, but along the way has some engaging dialogue (“Yeah we all died. Some of us just came back.” Donal Fitzgerald, played by Nick Nolte) often given in the repartee style of screwball comedy without the comedy.
I am most surprised at director Redford’s political restraint, given his inclination to preach baldly in previous films and in his personal life. The Company You Keep smoothly combines the pacing of a race for survival with the consciousness of a moderate liberal trying to show the unglamorous effects of sins, like excessive ambition and murder, over a lifetime. In its favor the film does not overdo its sympathy for the kids of these radicals, although Brit Marling as Rebecca Osborne would make anyone cry over her, so innocent-looking she is.
While the film tends to emphasize the personal effects on lovers and families to the exclusion of the Weatherman history, it still is instructive about the radical movements decades ago. Although the theme of the ramifications of keeping a secret are parsed by Grant in a too-contrived monologue, the point is well taken, for each secret revealed adds another layer of punishment for all, even children.
If Redford weren’t so wrapped up in nostalgia and stuck to the hard-core reasons for some very bright people’s stupidity, this could have been a soaring achievement of documenting history in dramatic form. As it is, it’s a smart thriller that has some lessons, both political and personal, for all the audience.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org. He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com