Title: The Company You Keep

Director: Robert Redford

Starring: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Brit Marling, Nick Nolte, and Stanley Tucci

People are so often set in their own ways, and are determined to prove that their rationale and motivations are the right ones, that they don’t always consider the conflicting point-of-view of people with differing ideals. Their resolve to push their own political agendas and protect their freedoms often hinders their perceptions and willingness to accept diverse lifestyles, which can ultimately put other lives at risk. This is certainly the case in the new Robert Redford-directed thriller, ‘The Company You Keep.’ The film sets an older former member of a political radical group, whose still struggling to cope with his remorse over his actions while in the organization, with a rising journalist who cares more about breaking a career-defining story, than the consequences his writing will have on those involved in the case. Their actions emotionally highlight how the ideals of two generations can be so different and life defining.

‘The Company You Keep’ follows Jim Grant (Redford), a public interest lawyer and single father raising his teenage daughter, Isabel (Jackie Evancho), in the suburbs of Albany, New York. His world is turned upside down, however, when a young reporter, Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf), exposes his true identity as a former 1970s antiwar radical fugitive wanted for murder. After living more than 30 years underground, Jim must go on the run across the country and rely on his former associates in the Weather Underground, including Mimi Lurie (Julie Christie), Donal (Nick Nolte) and Jed Lewis (Richard Jenkins), to help exonerate him. But the FBI, including Agent Cornelius (Terrence Howard) and Diana (Anna Kendrick), is close behind Jim, ready to make the long-awaited, high-profile arrest.

Despite the warnings of his editor, Ray Fuller (Stanley Tucci), and the threats from the FBI, Ben is determined to track Jim down as well, knowing the significance of the national news story he has exposed. He knows the story can make his career, and is the opportunity of a lifetime. Determined to make a name for himself, Ben also travels across the country, also tracking down those involved in the case, including Henry Osborne (Brendan Gleeson), the police chief leading the investigation into the murder after it occurred. As Ben uncovers the shocking secrets Jim has kept hidden for over three decades, they both are forced to come to terms with who they really are.

LaBeouf, who has risen to fame in such heavily CGI and stunt-influenced films as the ‘Transformers’ trilogy and ‘Indiana Jones and he Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,’ convincingly showed his versatility as an actor with his performance of the determined and strong-willed Ben. While Ben acts as the film’s antagonist in a sense, relentlessly pursuing Jim’s secrets, past and reasoning why he created a new identity for himself, he also stands for his generation’s political and career ambitions and ideals. The actor shows the reporter’s complexities by subtly showing his brief moments of doubt and guilt over potentially ruining Jim’s life, but then quickly reverts back to his self-propelled need for fame and validation.

Ben is also represented as having an unwavering ambition to uncovering the entire truth behind Jim’s alleged involvement in the murder, proving he’s the living embodiment of standing up for the public’s right to the truth. But the writer, who has long succumbed to living in solitude, does emotionally mature as he chases Jim across the country; he comes to realize that his reporting not only has painful consequences on the lawyer’s stability and family, but also those indirectly involved in the case. One prime example is Henry’s daughter, Rebecca (Brit Marling), who is upset over seeing her father having to once again contend with the painful and unnerving case.

Production designer Laurence Bennett effortlessly created diverse and realistic sets to capture and reflect each character’s personality. While the thriller was entirely shot in Vancouver, Bennett effectively created sets that represented the diverse locations the movie was set in, from suburban Albany to Ann Arbor and the coastal towns of Michigan, and from the industrious side of Minneapolis to the sprawling forests in California. Jim’s home and office in Albany, for example, were neatly filled with his legal papers and family mementos, which emphasize his dedication to his underground life as a lawyer and caring for Isabel. Ben’s office and apartment, however, were often cluttered with his research for his articles, and often lack any true personal belongings. Until he fully sees and understands Jim’s need to protect his daughter, Ben is solely focused on work, and does little to clean up the large piles of debris that litters his desk, at work and at home.

The structured sets placed in Albany that perfectly reflect Jim and Ben’s set lives greatly contrast the locations the two visit across America as the lawyer goes on the run. Ann Arbor and the surrounding towns the reporter largely spends time in, as he intently investigates Henry’s connection in the case, reflect fishing towns that are unified by family bonds, and the desire to move on from the past. When Jim travels to Minneapolis to visit Donal for help in proving his innocence, he visits the industrial and logging site the latter is now running. The location reveals that not all of the former Weather Underground members have taken more sophisticated jobs to support themselves after they left the radical movement. Mimi, meanwhile, is leading a reclusive, yet lavish, lifestyle in the woods of Big Sur in California, content with her latest lifestyle of fishing and living in a sophisticated wood cabin. Her technologically-infused, socially isolated home emphasizes that she feels no remorse for her part in the radical movement, and truly appreciates her freedom from a political system she despises.

‘The Company You Keep’ is a humanizing, realistic investigation into how a radical group that was once united by its members’ fundamental ideas and determination to change the government’s ways, can see such a drastic shift in their ideals. While some characters, like Jim, feel remorse over the group’s extreme actions, others, like Mimi, still feel there’s a cause to keep fighting for, which Redford emphasized in his diverse locations. Also emphasizing on the characters’ interactions and motivations, the thriller smartly forgoes continuous CGI and stunts to instead focus on the characters’ differing motivations, and how their beliefs and relationships influence their lifestyles. LaBeouf leads an intriguing cast that highlights and connects with their characters’ emotions, and proves that he can move past the CGI-filled movies that have defined his career so far. While the director showcases his character’s hope of proving his innocence and remorse over his past discretions, LaBeouf defines the film’s theme of people’s current pursuit of relentlessly pursuing someone else’s secrets and past, in order to push their own political and career ambitions and ideals.

Technical: B+

Acting: B+

Story: B

Overall: B

Written by: Karen Benardello

The Company You Keep (2012) on IMDb

The Company You Keep Movie Review

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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