It’s easy to understand Robert Redford’s attraction to the material and worldview found in Neil Gordon’s The Company You Keep, the 2003 novel on which director Redford’s movie is based. The book fictionalizes the later life of members of 1960s and ’70s radical revolutionary group The Weather Underground, imaging what might happen to them if their assumed identities were finally exposed after they spent 30 years hiding in plain sight. Redford is known for his progressive politics, and bringing Gordon’s book to the big screen affords him the chance to revisit a misunderstood era and reexamine the passions that led to violence in the name of social justice. It’s harder to imagine why Redford would bother to make an uninspired movie on the subject.
Though its subject matter is obviously close to Redford’s heart, The Company You Keep is sleepy and unconvincing. At 76, Redford seems too old for the lead role of a former late-’60s radical. At least his friends are well cast: it’s a pleasure to see Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Julie Christie, Stanley Tucci and others sharing Redford’s attraction to the story and bringing it for their time on screen. The best lines are reserved for Redford’s character, though, as he repeatedly chastises the young reporter (Shia LaBeouf) who exposes him for not understanding the crucial role of the press in revealing difficult truths. That’s a message that bears repeating, but it’s not enough to support a two-hour film.