Movie review: The Company You Keep
Here's a nugget of a fact that may surprise you: Robert Redford has to date won only two Oscars, and neither of them were for acting. One was for Best Director for 1981's Ordinary People and another was a we-feel-kind-of-bad-that-you-haven't-won-more-Oscars, otherwise known as the Lifetime Achievement award, which he received in 2002. And to rub salt into the wounds, he has only ever been nominated once for a Best Actor award, which was for his performance in 1973's The Sting.
And despite the fact the 77 year old Redford both directs and stars in his latest project, it's unlikely to alter his chances of picking up any further golden statues any time soon.
Everyone knows that when it comes to progressing in your career you've got to start somewhere. For young reporter Ben Shepherd (Shia LaBeouf) he's on staff reporting local news at the Albany Sun Times. He's like an eager puppy that is eager to prove himself to his editor Ray (Stanley Tucci).
And then a story breaks: Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) was a part of the notorious Weather Underground movement in the late sixties/early seventies, and has been living under the radar ever since as she is still on the FBI Most Wanted list; then, out of the blue, the FBI track her down and arrest her. Playing in the back of Ben's mind is one underlying fact: how did the FBI find her after thirty years?
A friend of hers contacts Jim Grant (Redford) an Albany attorney, to ask if he can represent her. He turns the offer down, citing the fact that he's just too busy, and doesn't think he's really good enough to help.
When Ben learns of this, he decides to pay Jim a visit, after all, a case this big most attorneys would die for, so why is he really turning it down. Jim tells him that things at home are a little difficult since his wife died, meaning that he's bringing up his young daughter on his own. On the surface, it appears legitimate enough, but Ben doesn't quite buy into it.
After digging a little deeper, Ben soon discovers the startling truth, which acts as a catalyst for another member of the Weather Underground, forcing them out of hiding and go on the run in an attempt to prove their innocence.
This is the first time since 2007's Lions for Lambs that Redford has both directed and starred in a film (that also starred Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise), and it's safe to say that he still knows how to attract the talent; this film also boasts an impressive line-up that also includes Anna Kendrick, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliot, Richard Jenkins, Chris Cooper and Julie Christie.
And yet despite some fine performances, the film struggles with a script that suffers from a lack of momentum. It's understandable why the veteran actor/director picked the project; it's based on a thriller by novelist Neil Gordon, and takes place within a delicate web of political intrigue, and Redford enjoys films with a political edge of one kind or another.
Unfortunately it trundles along with the energy of a geriatric drooping out of bed for the umpteenth toilet visit in the middle of the night. It's one of those two hour long films that really makes you feel it by the end.
A positive to take away from the experience is Shia LeBoeuf; it's interesting to see him not only take on a more intelligent role, but also give account of himself doing so to boot. There are actual glimpses of ability here, which just might mean that he has a long-term career at this acting lark.
And as you would expect, all of the other wrinklies put in a good shift too, although Nolte's dialogue specifically could have done with some re-dubbing, as much of it sounds like words are dribbling out of his mouth.
Maybe Redford is just getting to an age where he should probably just concentrate on one job or the other, as possibly the days of directing and acting in a film to his full abilities are behind him now. And as far as his performance alone is concerned, despite one or two nice lines, there's a disappointing air of staleness to it all.
Considering the underlying political intrigue at the heart of the film, Redford fails to bring it to the fore with any real impact, making The Company You Keep just too limp to make any kind of real or lasting impression.
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