"The Company You Keep"
Release Date: April 26, 2013
Running Time: 121 minutes
Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep is a 1970s-style political thriller that finds its star and director asking some hard-hitting questions about the current state of journalism. Unfortunately, it feels so dated in its approach and execution that it should have been set in the early 1990s. A snarky Shia LaBeouf plays the Albany, NY, reporter who unmasks Redford’s defense attorney as a wanted former member of the Weather Underground. Redford went into hiding after being implicated with several other militants in the 1970s bank robbery killing of a security guard. The elderly widower goes on the run, leaving his preteen daughter with his brother (Chris Cooper). While the Terrence Howard-led FBI always seems to be one step behind Redford, LaBeouf’s able to remain on the fugitive’s trail thanks to some good old-fashioned investigative work. The Company You Keep quickly runs out of steam because the truth behind Redford’s involvement in the robbery isn’t all that intriguing. To this end, Redford introduces a famous face every five minutes to hold our interest. If Redford’s not begging for help from Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, and Julie Christie, LaBeouf’s pumping Cooper, Howard, Anna Kendrick, Susan Sarandon, Brendan Gleeson, and Brit Marling for information. Still, if anyone’s qualified to comment on journalism in the 21st century, it's the actor who played Bob Woodward in All the President’s Men. It’s obvious Redford holds reporters to a high standard. With The Company You Keep, he laments how dried-up ad revenue has resulted in most newspapers cutting staff and losing the necessary resources to conduct the kind of in-depth investigations that led to President Richard Nixon’s downfall in the wake of the Watergate scandal. So screenwriter Lem Dobbs’s adaptation of Neil Gordon’s 2003’s novel offers an idealized version of what today’s reporter should be. He’s one who spends all his time out of the office tracking down sources and scouring through thousands of pages of documents. Unfortunately, The Company You Keep seems to ignore the modern technology that’s available to LaBeouf’s that would allow him to take shortcuts without compromising his investigations. The film really seems technophobic at times. There are times when The Company You Keep contradicts itself. The secrets unlocked by LaBeouf were waiting to be found in the 1970s, so Redford indirectly accuses the journalists who covered the story in the past of shoddiness and indifference. Also, complaints that newpapers now only print what fits—as opposed to all the news that’s fit to print—goes back to at least to the 1980s with the advent of USA Today, a newspaper that from the start kept story jumps to a minimum. While this concern is still relevant today, Redford acts like he’s the first to point this out. There’s no doubt Redford’s sincere about urging journalists to do a better job, but he also wants it both ways. In this day and age of the TMZ-ing of respectable media outlets, Redford wants journalists to draw the line at invading a person’s privacy. Of course, the debate about what’s public and what’s private has raged on for decades, and as a celebrity, Redford clearly doesn’t want the media poking into what he does off the set. Sadly, with The Company You Keep, Redford wants to move the line as to what is in the public interest and what should be kept private. LaBeouf is faced with the moral quandary of filing a story that could potentially change several people’s lives. What LaBoeuf writes is the truth, and it gives his story perspective. Yes, a journalist should take into consideration the ramifications their stories may have on their subjects, but in The Company You Keep, LaBeouf isn’t writing a puff piece on a celebrity who poorly tips a server. It’s a story about how a murder 40 years earlier impacted the lives of many people, including those who were born after the heinous crime. The position Redford places LaBeouf in threatens to undermine his ethics and integrity, which is a shame because throughout The Company You Keep Redford seems to push LaBeouf to be a better, responsible journalist.
Aired: April 25, 2013
Web site: http://www.sonyclassics.com/thecompanyyoukeep/