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Byron Shire
May 8, 2021

Absorbing, provocative but dawdling

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Film review: The Company You Keep

John Campbell

There is a hair-splitting annoyance in the chronology of this; as a former member of the Weathermen, a radical group that protested against the Vietnam War through home-based acts of violence, Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) has been arrested for her part in a shooting homicide that happened thirty years ago. This would have placed the event in 1982, seven years after the war ended.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest… Robert Redford has directed an absorbing, provocative but dawdling movie that deals with the, for some, uncomfortable bedfellows of principles and terrorism and the fading urge to ‘maintain the rage’.

He also plays Nick Sloane, a one-time activist who is still wanted by the FBI for his involvement in the Solarz case. Now living under the alias of James Grant, he is a comfy, widowed, small-town lawyer with a gorgeous eleven-year-old daughter. When the past returns to haunt him, Sloane/Grant, motivated to clear his name, flees the law to track down Mimi (Julie Christie), the only person who can clear his name.

To his credit, Redford does not try to hide his age – his wrinkled face resembles a relief map of the Gobi Desert – but when a man of seventy-two chooses to include so many scenes in which he is running, like a bloke escaping from a nursing home, you’d have to say that he’s taken his anti-ego campaign one gasping step too far. This is a particularly relevant story for those of us who would rather see yesterday stay in its allotted time frame, where it might remain gilded, and Redford is honest enough to concede that even the most fiery ideologues are eventually wearied by the bogey of self-interest.

Shia LaBeouf is less annoying than usual as the reporter who is driven, as in All The President’s Men, to uncover the truth, but the script strains itself in approaching the corny denouement – suffice to say, you should always expect the unexpected whenever you hear anybody say ‘I was adopted’.

 


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