I love a good dialog and character driven mystery. I’m always on the look out for one. Even though I look, most of the best are discovered by some sort of accident. What might have made me enjoy The Company You Keep more is that I went in cold. It’s super rare nowadays when you don’t hear tons of rumors, see a few trailers, and know a lot about the movie before going in. Sometimes you’ll know too much. I try my best to avoid a good deal of all the exposure. You can’t slip by all of it. Also, at times, curiosity just wins over. With so many blockbusters making headlines lately, a film like this will fade into the background in the marketing department. The movie I was originally going to see was sold out. So, instead of waiting for the next showing (or sneaking in, com-on, we’ve all done that), I saw the poster. Thought, Robert Redford, might as well. Glad I made that choice.
The trailer really got on my nerves. I checked it out earlier and this was another trailer that gave away too much of the plot. I really hate when trailers revival so much. I’ve seen a few that haven’t, but for the most part a great deal have this problem. It especially becomes an issue with a mystery or a thriller. If you have yet to see the trailer, I’d strongly advice against seeing it. I’ll do my best to sum of the plot without spoiling anything. Sharon Solarz (Susan Surandon) – an American terrorist who had been living in hiding for decades since she was connected to a robbery that resulted in the death of a guard – is found and arrested. Her sudden and surprising arrest sparks new interest in the old Michigan robbery. An ambitions reporter from the Albany Sun Times, Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf), starts to dig deeper.
Lem Dobbs’s script is very flawed, but still manages to have some really good aspects to it. The most recent script Dobbs wrote was the one for Haywire. He seems to have interesting ideas, but isn’t entirely consistent with getting them across – its helped that he’s had great actors on most of his projects to give things an extra boost. The screenplay was extremely important because it drives the movie in every way. It can be character driven, but mostly is dialog driven throughout. One of the biggest complements I can give, is that the story did have my full attention. I was intrigued watching the plot unfold itself. One plot point could have been expanded on near the end. Given the time it was given, it couldn’t have done any more. There was a lull in the middle like most movies similar. Thankfully, it didn’t last long at all. My favorite part of the script was the conversations between Redford and LaBeouf; thought they were great and smartly written.
The acting was a major strong point. Robert Redford was good. Redfrod’s character isn’t given an ample amount of depth. However, he adds to the character. I’ve never been a fan of Shia LaBeouf. He was okay in things like the first Transformers, but can also come off completely unlikeable. His latest movie prior to this was Lawless. I couldn’t stand LaBeouf and thought he was wrong for the role as well. Here, though, his best performance by far is given. I finally could buy LaBeouf as the character he’s playing (he’s still not very charismatic). Susan Surandon continues to be great in everything I see her in. With the omission of That’s my Boy, she’s had an excellent streak. Leaves of Grass, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Cloud Atlas, Robot & Frank, Arbitrage, Snitch, and The Company You Keep all in succession.
Along with Susan Surandon, the supporting cast did an exceptional job. A lot of outstanding actors kept popping up throughout (Redford has a knack for that). Stanley Tucci plays the role of the boss that’s been done countless times. I’ve always liked Tucci, and he does a fine job whenever he’s on screen. Terrence Howard also has a role that we’ve seen a million times. Nothing he does jumps out at you in any way because nothing is given to the character (none was needed), but he does well. I was surprised to find out Julie Christie appeared. She is such a good actress. I was eager to see a scene with Christie and Redford together. While their acting was never in question, the chemistry isn’t very strong. Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson, Brit Marling, and Sam Elliot make an appearance too. All of them were perfect.
The Company You Keep doesn’t only have Robert Redford acting, but directing as well. He’s never made anything I’ve loved. Still, his style has it’s upside. Redford’s latest was 2010’s The Conspirator; it was structurally okay while pretty bland overall. Redford likes to have a slower pace and doesn’t depend on action to movie the plot forward in any way. I respect that – not tackled often. A lot of messages and morals are thrown around; some worked, while others did not. The Weather Underground isn’t talked about a lot. When it is, not much is given – “Dissent is dicey” is the best you’re going to get. What worked was the stuff on violence, growing-up, and “truth.” This could have been political thriller, a character study, or a number of things. Choosing to be one limited where the movie went. I still thought The Company You Keep was solid.