Right-wingers have their panties in a bunch misreading Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep as a celebration of the Weather Underground, who were 1960s radicals committed to the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. It’s the corruption of Sixties idealism that sparks the interest of Redford as actor and director. In adapting Neil Gordon’s novel, screenwriter Lem Dobbs tells us about extremists who went into hiding. When a present-day New York housewife, Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon), turns herself in to the FBI for a 30-year-old Michigan bank robbery that resulted in the death of a security guard, reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) begins investigating. He turns up Jim Grant (Redford), a widowed lawyer with a young daughter, Isabel (singer Jacqueline Evancho). Jim has been using a false identity, living in a small town. But as Ben ties Jim together with Sharon and the murder, Jim goes on the run, linking up with his old underground as he tries to locate former love Mimi (a dynamite Julie Christie), an unmellowed revolutionary who might clear his name.
There’s enough plot to stuff a miniseries, but Redford never loses sight of the human drama. Martyrdom is not conferred, nor is reinvention equated with redemption. Drawing skillfully on a first-rate cast, Redford builds a riveting, resonant political thriller that values the complexity of its characters and the intelligence of its audience. In sellout Hollywood, that makes it revolutionary.