Movie review: Old pros shine in 'The Comany You Keep'

April 25, 2013 

For the News-Democrat

What It's About

How refreshing it is to see Hollywood mainstays wear their wrinkles like a badge of honor in "The Company You Keep."

Iconic Robert Redford plays Jim Grant, a do-gooder lawyer hiding his secret past, but his life unravels after he is exposed as fugitive Nick Sloan. He was a member of the Weather Underground, a militant anti-Vietnam War group that committed violent acts. During a bank robbery in Michigan, a guard was killed. Three of the dissenters were at large for 40 years.

Investigated by a hot shot reporter (Shia LaBoeuf), Grant/Sloan goes on the run, crisscrossing the U.S. to reunite with fellow '60s radicals to help bring the truth to light.

Performances

An all-star cast features headliners who basically owned the '70s and '80s on screen, and now show their resilience in this grown-up movie. Popular supporting actors and young stars help keep this idealistic character-driven thriller interesting. In just a few scenes, Susan Sarandon and Julie Christie seize their moments.

LaBoeuf shows he can run with the big dogs, portraying a glib journalist always ready with a quip. He's a reporter who knows how to dig for information. While it's unlikely he would be one step ahead of the FBI, his Ben Shepard is believable.

What Works

Redford also smoothly directed, his ninth time behind the camera. His knack for smart storytelling is evident in this adaptation of Neil Gordon's 2003 novel. Screenwriter Lem Dobbs ("The Limey") nimbly weaves in the histories while Redford leeps the suspense building. It's stuffed with characters looking back at their life choices and reflecting on their heady youth, when they believed they could change the world. For mature moviegoers of a certain age, this is an old-fashioned yarn they can identify with, a nod to a defining era in their lives.

The best part of this movie is watching the parade of actors reveal themselves on screen -- and their strengths make it a must-see.

What Doesn't Work

With that much talent, you expect an epic. Unfortunately, this doesn't go deeper beyond its melodramatic surface.

And sadly, sometimes, one has to suspend belief. The ravages of time effect everyone, even golden boys and Oscar winners. Redford's character is a late-in-life dad, with an 11-year-old daughter ("America's Got Talent" finalist Jackie Evancho), and that is rather tough to swallow, as he looks more like her grandfather. And the long sequences of him running -- really? Not ready to be called "Pops" and shoved off his beloved indie savior perch, nevertheless he's now 76 and his physicality isn't what it used to be -- he's human, after all! It's been decades since he jumped off a cliff in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," but he is still playing the same decent guy who shampooed Meryl Streep's hair in "Out of Africa."

3 stars out of 4

Director: Robert Redford

Starring: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie, Terrence Howard, Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, Jackie Evancho, Chris Cooper, Anna Kendrick, Stanley Tucci, Brendan Gleeson, Brit Marling, Sam Elliott

Rated:R for language

Length: 2:07

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