The Company You Keep: Star-Studded Cast Failed by Wishy-Washy Script
Anna KendrickBrit Marling...
With four Oscar-winners and five Oscar-nominees in the cast of political thriller, The Company You Keep, director and producer, Robert Redford, has made all our tails wag furiously.
However, it’s also proven to be the film’s undoing. With expectations running high, Redford’s ninth directorial effort falls short and ultimately fails to live up to its potential.
The Company You Keep starts with archive video footage of news reports talking about the illegal activities that radical group, the Weather Underground, committed during the late 60’s and early 70’s in the US. The massive anti-war movement’s violent acts included the bombings of several symbolic buildings and even left one man dead. After the incident, several of the group’s members managed to go into hiding and have been on the FBI’s watch list for over forty years.
Shifting its focus to the present, we meet Sharon Solarz (Sarandon); a suburban housewife and mother of two teenage kids who is arrested and brought in for questioning by the FBI on her role in the group’s doings four decades ago. Her arrest grabs the attention of a persistent local reporter, Ben Shepard (LaBeouf), who – despite initial reservations from his bossy editor, Ray (Tucci) – decides to follow the story and see if he can dig up some dirt.
His relentless snooping eventually leads him to Jim Grant (Redford); a widowed lawyer who is busy caring for his twelve-year old daughter, Isabelle (Evancho). It turns out that Jim has a few secrets of his own and once he too decides to go on the run, we’re introduced to lumberyard owner, Donald Fitzgerald (Nolte), subdued college professor, Jed Lewis (Jenkins), and veteran cop, Henry Osborne (Gleeson).
Based on Neil Gordon’s 2003 novel of the same name, and adapted by the award-winning screenwriter, Lem Debs, The Company You Keep starts off strong. The introduction to the Weather Underground’s activities is gripping and incredibly insightful, managing to pave the road ahead pretty well. However, once the story, and the truth, start to unravel, its premise becomes less and less interesting.
Chatty and rather predictable, Redford loses his way about halfway through the film, mainly thanks to the decision to bring more focus on the mechanics of the investigation, rather than shining a light on the complexities of the characters and their personal journeys.
Subsequently, the talented cast suffers. Christie, Gleeson, Jenkins and Tucci all possess incredible acting capacity, but are never really given the time and space to show it. Howard, who plays the leading FBI agent in the investigation, is his natural charming self, while LaBeouf seems a little out of depth in such a stern role. Redford meanwhile, seems a little reserved and displays little of his famous onscreen allure, while Sarandon, in her surprisingly short screen time, absolutely steals the show.
In the end, The Company You Keep suffers from a case of too many questions and very few answers; it’s slow, unsurprising and incredibly wishy-washy about the message it’s trying to deliver.