Jun 3, 2013

[Movies] The Company You Keep (2012)

My family has a history of being political nerds. Yes, I can firmly admit that without batting an eyelash. And so we watch some quirky movies sometimes or just read books of a certain nature that fall along politically-oriented lines.

So this movie, The Company You Keep, fell right into that category complete with the rich political intrigue of the the 1960's-70s as brought into the modern day, so to speak. After all, the ideals and beliefs formed by that period given the events of the Vietnam War helpe shaped the beliefs and principles of an entire generation.

Plus this was a movie involving Robert Redford, who in turn has a rather rich filmography under his belt whether as an actor or a director or whatever. The man still has a quiet intensity about him that gives him a unique on-screen presence that is quite impressive. And this nicely stands the test of time, even against younger actors who are more popular these days.

The tricky part is figuring out whether I truly liked this movie - admittedly I'm somewhat on the fence about things for a number of reasons.

Synopsis: The Company You Keep is a 2012 political thriller directed by Robert Redford with a screenplay by Lem Dobbs. The movie is based on the Neil Gordon novel of the same name.

At the center of our story is Jim Grant (Robert Redford), a former member of the somewhat radical political group the Weather Underground that had previously advocated for Black power and protested heavily against the Vietnam War. He has been wanted for his part in a 1980's Michigan bank robbery and the murder of the bank's security guard. Thus he has been hiding from the FBI for over 30 years using an assumed identity.

Around the start of the story, Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon), another member of the Weather Underground, gets arrested in 2011. This inspires the young and ambitious reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LeBeouf) decides to pursue the story in the hopes of making a national impact. Thus he reaches out to his ex-girlfriend, Diana (Anna Kendrick), who works with the FBI, in the hopes of getting more information. Thus this sends Ben on an investigation of his own - one that will lead to other members of the Weather Underground including Jim himself, thus endangering his daughter as well.

Now Robert Redford is Robert Redford is Robert Redford. Ultimately this means that he's still an impressive actor and he is as impressive as always in this movie. To some extent, one might argue that this is a bit of a typecast role for him given his past movies. Then again, it's a role well-suited to him where he gets to be the sort of quick-thinking man on the run who is just looking out for his family.

And Jim's plan is not a simple one. Clearly he has spent a fair amount of time thinking about the risks of being discovered and made arrangements to deal with such an eventuality. And his goal isn't just fading back into obscurity under another identity. He has a lot more in mind and watching his plan unfold is a significantly interesting part of this movie.

I wasn't overly sold on Shia's role in this movie - oddly enough his look here reminds me a lot of Gene Wilder, of all people. He's trying to be the plucky journalist, or at least his concept of one. And there lies the problem since many times he seems to just fall back into being, well, Shia LeBeouf with bad hair. And to believe that he's the one who eventually figures this all out was a bit of a stretch to me.

The movie still features a compelling supporting cast who all play their roles in revealing more of the group's history and also Jim's plan. And when things do come together, it's still quite the rich and diverse tapestry of years of planning and thought. And therein lies the value of this movie as a whole.

The Company You Keep is a movie that seems a tad out of place compared to the big Hollywood blockbusters out there. But that's not a bad thing - it's a movie that aims to be smarter and richer in many respects and thus is worth the experience. So I rate the movie as 3.5 surprise revelations and interconnections out of a possible 5.

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