With a stellar cast consisting of an incredible nine Academy Award-nominated performers, it’s safe to say that the expectations for Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep (2012) are suitably high. However, such anticipation results in severe disappointment as we’re treated to a tedious, American equivalent of Last of the Summer Wine. Redford directs and also stars as Jim Grant, a small-town lawyer and single father who becomes embroiled in local journalist Ben Shepard’s (Shia LaBeouf) investigation into the terrorists of an activist group, following the arrest of former member Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon).
It soon transpires that Redford’s Grant is actually long-term FBI fugitive Nick Sloan, and due to Shepard discovering his true identity, the former activist will have to give up his comfortable home life with his daughter and go on the run once again. What is intriguing about The Company You Keep is how the viewer is kept at arm’s length from this case, unsure of quite what or who to believe. It’s also fascinating to witness events unravel from two sides of the coin through both the investigator and the investigated, piecing the narrative together from conflicting perspectives, learning about the case at the same time as Shepard, and ultimately relying on his information to comprehend what exactly is going on.
Although playing a somewhat irritating character, LaBeouf stands out, leading a quite astounding collection of actors that include Stanley Tucci, Anna Kendrick, Richard Jenkins and Julie Christie to name but a few. Every which way you turn an esteemed performer turns up, but although the acting throughout is of a consistently high standard, the supporting characters are quite insubstantial – little more than cameo roles, cheapening the credentials of this cast somewhat, while resulting in a lack of emotional investment in the tale or the characters. The feature feels contrived too, as the way the story comes together is unnatural, with Shepard merely feeding off scraps of minor information.
Had Redford’s latest been made with far less money, by a far less renowned filmmaker and with a far less celebrated cast, you may be more inclined to search for the positives that exist; yet sadly none of the above statements ring true, instead leaving you with a somewhat sour taste in the mouth, as a film that simply doesn’t fulfil its promises. So if you do decide to get a ticket to see The Company You Keep with a friend, bear in mind your very own kept company may not trust your cinematic judgement quite so much again.