THE COMPANY YOU KEEP (Robert Redford, 2013)
Shia LaBeouf gives us the journalist character we'd love to hate in THE COMPANY YOU KEEP, and not since Hayden Christensen went lying his way to fame in SHATTERED GLASS had we an onscreen antihero journalist so riveting. As ambitious newspaper reporter Ben Shepard, LaBeouf is chillingly effective. Nosy, narcissistic, and seemingly devoid of human emotion, he pursues the story wherever it may lead, and he's not coy of squeezing all his assets to stay ahead of the game.
When a shot at a national news coverage breaks out following the FBI arrest of wanted militant Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) after 30 years of hiding, Ben is hot on the trail, exposing Solarz' fellow Weather Underground member Nick Sloan (Robert Redford), who is hiding under an alias Jim Grant, and practicing as an attorney near Albany, New York. With that, Ben is catapulted to instant stardom, meanwhile Sloan has to quickly leave his hometown and protect his young daughter.
At the same time that Ben is pursuing every lead, and getting one step closer to the truth, Sloan is fighting not only for his life but for the future of his young daughter. A second encounter between the two men near the end of the film has Sloan saying to Ben of what the young reporter might uncover about himself, now that he's figured the whole story. This would affect Ben for the rest of his life.
Hence, the film not only deals with the moral ripples of journalism to its human subjects, but also serves as a study of activism long after the issues that have been fought for, in this case the Vietnam War. Julie Christie, who plays Weather Underground member Mimi Lurie mentions she will gladly surrender if the government and the corporations admit they are wrong. Robert Redford sure loves his political statements (remember LIONS FOR LAMBS?) but in the end, the film takes a responsible stand on activism, which is satisfying.
A who's who of Hollywood heavyweights render unmatched supporting performances that are neither useless nor unnecessary, from Chris Cooper playing brother to Robert Redford's character to young Brit Marling playing the girl with the big secret. Heck, even Nick Nolte is most welcome.
And just when things start to get boring with the lengthy conversations, Sloan makes a covert attempt to contact Mimi Lurie through a telephone number used by the underground, through Richard Jenkins who acts as intermediary. Did someone yell spy stuff? Think RED without the guns and the sarcasm, and way, way into retirement.
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP is a real nail-biter thanks heavily to its choice not to shove too much politics down our throats, and for making its characters realize the consequences of their actions. As a result we get to enjoy the thrill of Robert Redford do a Harrison Ford a la THE FUGITIVE. Shia LaBeouf is the real Tommy Lee Jones here, not Terrence Howard who plays the FBI agent.