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Article by Teddy Durgin

The Company You Keep Crosses Generations

From time to time, my 8-year-old daughter, Madeline, likes to "surprise" me. Usually, it's a gift of some kind around a holiday or special occasion. The problem is - bless her little heart - she's terrible at keeping secrets. She'll say things like, "Daddy, close your ears" and then scream-whisper what the present is in her mom's ear. Or, she'll randomly walk up to me in my home office, stare at me with an impish smile, and ask, "You haven't looked in my closet lately, have you?" Or two days out from Christmas or my birthday or Father's Day, we'll be having dinner together and she'll just blurt, "Daddy, do you just want to know what your surprise is NOW?!" Robert Redford is kind of like that in his direction of "The Company You Keep" (now playing at the Charles Theater downtown and at the Regal Bel Air in Abingdon). He has structured his latest big-screen political statement as a mystery chase thriller, and my biggest problem with the film is not its politics. It's the fact that I figured out its secrets way before the movie chose to reveal them to me. To its credit, the film isn't solely about plot twists. But when you know exactly whether the main character is innocent or not of the crime he is on the run for, and when you know almost immediately who the mystery parents of a certain supporting character are way before the film's screenplay discloses it... yeah, some of the drama is short-circuited. Redford directs and stars as Jim Grant, a former member of the '60s-era Weather Underground movement, which opposed the Vietnam War and fought against corporate corruption and its growing influence on the global marketplace. Its members often did so with bombings of government buildings and other acts that would be considered domestic terrorism today. During one bank robbery to fund their activities, a security guard ended up shot and killed. Jim was suspected to be the trigger man or at least one of the masked robbers who took part in the heist along with Mimi Lurie (Julie Christie) and Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon). All three went on the run, changed their names and lived low-profile lives apart. As the movie opens, Sharon is arrested just before she is about to turn herself in after four decades living as a suburban wife and mother of two. Young, hard-charging journalist Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) senses a bigger story after receiving a tip that a lawyer in his local area of Albany, NY, refused to serve as her defense attorney. The attorney turns out to be Jim, and Ben "outs" him in an article. Jim subsequently is forced on the run again. The main reason to see the film is one you've probably already recognized just from reading about the film for a few paragraphs. The cast is, in a word, incredible! In addition to Redford, Christie, Sarandon and LaBeouf, the film is sprinkled with a myriad of past Oscar winners and nominees (or great actors who should have been past nominees and winners). Every five minutes or so, someone awesome pops up in a small role, whether it's Stanley Tucci as Ben's beleaguered editor or Richard Jenkins as a former hippie turned college professor or Nick Nolte as a not-so-legitimate lumberyard owner. Also in the cast are Terrence Howard, Sam Elliott, Anna Kendrick, Chris Cooper, Stephen Root and Brenden Gleeson. Despite the thriller elements being mishandled, I was reasonably entertained throughout. "The Company You Keep" is an interesting snapshot of those who lived in the shadow of the Greatest Generation, whose youth was spent trying to change the world, and whose middle and now old age have been spent dealing with the triumphs and failures of their idealism. At the very least, this generation proves they still have compelling stories to tell.

"The Company You Keep" is rated R for language.

 

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