Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Stars: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie
Director: Robert Redford
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Political Thriller
The Boston Marathon bombing has given The Company You Keep a kind of relevance and topicality it might not otherwise have appeared to possess. The film pings upon historical events from the politically turbulent sixties and seventies to present a fictionalized story that bears the ring of authenticity.
The Weather Underground, which came to be known as the Weathermen, grew out of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the late sixties. It was a revolutionary group that conducted bombings of U.S. government buildings, and other targets, primarily in protest of the Vietnam war. As the movie opens, a former member of the group, Sharon Solarz, (Susan Sarandon) who had been hiding out as a suburban housewife, is preparing to turn herself in for her part in a bank robbery that turned deadly back in the seventies. (Look up Sara Jane Olsen, aka Kathleen Soliah!)
The ensuing publicity results in one of her cohorts, lawyer Jim Grant, being ferreted out by cub reporter Ben Shepard, (Shia LaBeouf) who is still cutting his teeth at an Albany, New York newspaper. Grant (Robert Redford) is in reality Nick Sloan, and he may or may not be guilty of having participated in that same robbery. He goes on the run to attempt to prove his innocence, and in the process reunites with some of his old comrades, which gives Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, and Julie Christie a reason to be in this movie.
Sloan is particularly anxious to hook up with his old flame, Mimi Lurie, (Julie Christie) who, unlike some of the others, hasn't developed a different perspective through the passage of time. (Christie, who is now in her early seventies, is eerily reminiscent of Katherine Hepburn here.) Lurie is unapologetic for carrying the same ideals that galvanized her, and many of her contemporaries back in the day, to demonstrate what people power can actually accomplish by bringing an unjust war to an end. When their clandestine meeting finally occurs, Lurie still has fire in her eyes--still railing against a system that brought us Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the loss of so many innocent lives on all sides.
I think it was Redford's intention, by taking on this project, to give a little poke at a society that has grown complacent in many ways--and to say HEY, the questions raised in the Vietnam era haven't gone away--they are still here, as relevant today as they ever were.
To those too young to have lived through these events, The Company You Keep may simply seem to be relating a tale of homegrown terrorism from another era. Baby boomers are more likely to grasp the complexity of the issues that existed at the time. And while there is no disputing that their actions were tragically misguided, the difference between organizations like The Weathermen and the Boston bombers is that the former believed that they loved their country, whereas the latter apparently hated it.
That said, The Company You Keep does a good job of bringing some balanced perspective to an era that becomes ever more misunderstood as time passes and we grow farther and farther away from the fact. Efforts to try to rewrite history for the purpose of promoting a particular agenda are something that should be vigilantly guarded against.
There are some intriguing twists and turns, and a few loose ends don't get tied up at the conclusion, but beyond the nuts and bolts of the plot, The Company You Keep is a thoughtful attempt to examine still relevant questions about the use and misuse of government power.
Grade: B +