Robert Redford delivers one last lecture on 1960s idealism and passes another baton to Shia LaBeouf in The Company You Keep, an engrossing thriller about the last anti-Vietnam War radicals still underground.
Redford, along with fellow Oscar winners Susan Sarandon, Chris Cooper and Julie Christie, and the cream of the cinema's current crop of character actors -- Brendan Gleeson, Nick Nolte, Stanley Tucci and Richard Jenkins -- make this "No Country for Old Radicals" a feast of performance, with many of those illustrious stars sharing scenes with LaBeouf, who plays an obsessed newspaper reporter on their trail.
And in this movie, the kid holds his own.
Sarandon plays a former member of "The Struggle" who has laid low for decades, raising kids and harbouring guilt. She wants to turn herself in for her part in a bank robbery that got a guard killed some "30 years ago." But the FBI catches her first.
LaBeouf is the hotshot reporter Ben Shepard at a struggling Albany, N.Y., paper sent to do the followup story. And what he starts to uncover gets him on the front page, and puts another fugitive, a local civil liberties lawyer (Redford), on the lam, dragging his 11-year-old daughter with him.
As reporter Ben fends off his downsizing/budget-cutting editor (Tucci) and follows the scent, others from that underground group come up for air: Nolte (whose voice is pretty much shot), a profane and comically combative Jenkins, and the elusive idealist Mina, given a radiant flintiness by Christie.
As the lawyer's true identity comes out, as "people who know how to hide" prove it by eluding law enforcement members one-third their age, as Ben clings to his story "like a life raft," the puzzle pieces fall together and characters have their say about who they were and what they did back then, and who they are now.
Jenkins' character, whose current "struggle" takes place in academia, sums it all up: "Now, we're just a story told to children."
The biggest problem with The Company You Keep is that it is mathematically inept. The vast majority of the events described and portrayed happened in the late '60s and early '70s, during the war they were protesting. "Thirty years ago" would barely fit in the latest of the trials of that era, nor would it accurately reflect the ages of the mostly aged cast.
Redford was 35 in 1971. Pretending he's not 70-plus is both vain (his youthful-for-his-age character doesn't feel the need to disguise his ginger hair while on the lam) and insulting.
What, we can't add?
Excerpts of select reviews of The Company You Keep:
You can't help but applaud the effort, even as it falls short.
-- Rick Groen, Globe and Mail
You wish the movie were a little snappier, but Redford doesn't do snap; slow down with it, and enjoy the chase.
-- Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times
A drama that's more than a look at what happened to a generation of socially aware hippies whose new drug of choice is likely Lipitor.
-- Linda Barnard, Toronto Star
Directed in steady fashion by Redford, The Company You Keep manages to keep its multiple strands of plot -- and the people caught in them -- from collapsing in a jumble of confusion.
-- Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
No matter how much slack you cut it, The Company You Keep never quite lives up to expectation.
-- Katherine Monk, canada.com