It all gets a tad political in Robert Redford’s latest, The Company You Keep. Based on the novel of the same name, Redford directs Robert Redford, who plays an aged former political activist forced out of hiding after one of his colleagues (Susan Sarandon) gives herself up to the police. Like Sarandon, Redford has made a new life for himself, under a new name. Also like Sarandon, he’s wanted for the murder of a security guard 30 years previously. Redford goes on the hunt for his ex-girlfriend (Julie Christie); another member of the group who can give Redford the alibi he needs. Snapping at his heels is Shia LeBeouf who channels the very spirit of Robert Downey Jnr to play a not very convincing journalist.
The Company You Keep starts off with interest levels raised high. The idea of the past coming back to punch you squarely in the face can often make a great film, see A History of Violence. Unfortunately, as soon as Redford packs his 11 year old daughter off to his brother and dons a hat and dark glasses – the Hollywood equivalent of a disguise – the tension and drama is immediately sucked out of it. As we all know, nature abhors a vacuum and so the gap is filled with scenes of LaBeouf endlessly doing that thing that makes him Shia LaBeouf and Redford running from one city to the next like a bloodhound that’s learnt to walk on it’s back legs.
Redford’s direction is pedestrian at best. There is very little here to wear as a badge of honour. A bizarre choice sees a clearly unwell Nick Nolte, who is incomprehensible at the best of times, provide exposition against the backdrop of noisy machinery. It’s such a school boy error that you don’t expect from someone who’s being doing this as long as his back teeth have.
The Company You Keep is a disappointing affair that is all the more frustrating for being thoroughly engaging for the first act. A bit of editing and a tighter pacing would have saved this.