Robert Redford, now 76, has a body of work as a director that has served as a fascinating document to his diverse talent and artistic commitment.
Now the ageing Hollywood star has found inspiration in revisiting the violent student protests of the sixties. It’s a relatively absorbing tale with a strong underlying thriller element, in which the law finally tries catching up with the key characters who were involved with the mayhem that ensued under the guise of freedom in that era.
It was a time of protest marches, confrontations with the law and the notorious Weather Men, the underground movement that killed and maimed their opposition. Some of their leaders survived to become honest, upright citizens but the law was unforgiving as it set about bringing members to book.
Under Redford’s deft hand, The Company You Keep, rolls steadily along as it takes a critical look at the politics of the time and how a sharp, inquisitive journalist eventually manages to connect all the dots.
Redford plays Jim Grant, a recently widowed lawyer in upstate New York. When a fugitive veteran of the violent Weather Underground (Sarandon) is arrested for a long-ago bank robbery, Grant declines the chance to defend her. Journalist Ben Shepard (LaBeouf) discovers why Grant is reticent and he prints the reason – the lawyer is a fugitive himself, with secrets that could cost him the custody of his daughter. With his cover now blown, Grant goes on the run, with a tech-fortified FBI agent (Terrence Howard) and his team in hot pursuit.
Grant manages to leave his daughter with his brother (Chris Cooper) in Manhattan, and heads for the Midwest, undertaking a journey in which he makes contact with former peace-movement comrades (including Richard Jenkins and Nick Nolte), and gathers clues to the whereabouts of an unrepentant revolutionary (a weathered Julie Christie) who can clear his name.
There are a lot of threads to weave into a pursuit movie, but Redford manages to pull it all together at a moderate pace – even when ignoring some hotter, more contentious issues along the way.