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relevant films for adults are so rare that you want to root for each one that
comes along, especially from a filmmaker as imposing as Robert Redford. This
one not only brings the actor back to the screen but surrounds him with an
A-list cast. Alas, there’s no getting around the fact that The Company You Keep misses the mark, despite its promising

Shia LaBeouf
is quite good as an enterprising reporter for an Albany newspaper who misses
out on a big story in his own back yard—the surrender of a woman who’s been on
the FBI’s “most wanted” list for thirty years—but makes up for it with his
dogged follow-through, looking up the other student radicals from the Weather
Underground movement and trying to figure out how their stories connect.

Redford plays
a fellow fugitive who has reinvented himself, under a new name, and lived
quietly all these years until this story blows up. As a recent widower, his
primary concern is his 11-year-old daughter, and it’s his relationship with her
that sends him on the road to settle some long-unfinished business, with
reporter LaBeouf hot on his trail.

Lem Dobbs
screenplay (based on a novel by Neil Gordon) lays out the situation quite well,
and the casting of formidable actors in virtually every role gives weight to
each new episode in the unfolding story. It’s the denouement that doesn’t quite
add up; nor do the warnings issued to young LaBeouf that he can’t continue to
view people’s behavior in terms of black and white. When the film is over we
understand what motivated its various characters—in shades of gray—but we
aren’t left with anything to chew on. The film has no resonance; it’s almost
like a Cliff’s Notes version of what might have happened during the heyday of
the Students for a Democratic Society instead of a probing drama about that
tumultuous time in American life.

It’s always a
pleasure to see Redford flex his acting muscles and reaffirm his screen
charisma. Other key roles are filled by Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Julie
Christie, Sam Elliott, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, Anna
Kendrick, Stanley Tucci, Stephen Root, and Brit Marling. No film with a lineup
like that can be routinely dismissed, but the good intentions of The Company You Keep go largely
unrealized, and that’s a shame. Even after all these years, I think of Running on Empty (1988), written by
Naomi Foner and directed by Sidney Lumet. It tackled similar subject matter in
fictionalized form, but I’ve never forgotten its emotional impact. Redford’s
film doesn’t come close. 

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