Keep your friends close – The Company You Keep review


By Jess Lomas
April 16, 2013

Many films prompt you to suspend disbelief, ignore that plot hole, and not think too hard about how A equals B. Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep is such a film, in which Shia LaBeouf solves a 30-year mystery that had alluded the top minds at the FBI.

Based on the novel by Neil Gordon, The Company You Keep is a low-level thriller about Jim Grant (Redford), a small town lawyer and recently widowed father of a young girl. Jim is also known as Nick Sloan, a 60s-70s activist and member of the infamous group Weather Underground, responsible for wartime protests on American soil, in addition to a bank robbery gone wrong. Together with Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) and Mimi Lurie (Julie Christie), Nick has been living a secret double life to escape prosecution. When Sharon hands herself over to police, a young journalist, Ben Shepard (LaBeouf), uncovers more than anyone expected, exposing Nick’s true identity.


The picture’s strength lies in its stellar castmembers, who each do the best with their limited screen time; Stanley Tucci as Ben’s exasperated newspaper chief, Nick Nolte grunting his way through his handful of lines as a former accomplice of Nick’s, Richard Jenkins as the activist turned university professor, Chris Cooper as Nick’s estranged brother, Anna Kendrick as the conveniently connected FBI agent, Brendan Gleeson as the former police chief hiding a big secret, Brit Marling as his adopted daughter, and Terrence Howard as the FBI agent heading the case. Phew.

There’s something refreshing about a movie with old-fashioned sensibilities, and seeing a tale in which a newspaper journalist is out in the field playing Nancy Drew. A palpable level of excitement also comes from connecting the dots, thanks largely to a surprisingly honest performance from LaBeouf. Unfortunately the complexities of the story, perfectly suited to the novel form, don’t always translate well to the screen, with the largest issue being timeline confusion. How old was Nick exactly when he was in the resistance group? Redford’s weathered appearance does little to impede these questions arising throughout.

Despite maintaining an entertaining level of intrigue throughout, The Company You Keep never reaches the heights of suspense needed to make this a successful thriller. Still, the company that Redford is keeping in this feature is well worth the price of admission.


The Company You Keep arrives in Australian cinemas April 18, 2013.

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