"WE MADE MISTAKES," fugitive Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) says in The Company You Keep, remembering her time in the Weather Underground. "But," she adds, "we were right." As the film opens, Solarz has been arrested for a deadly bank robbery she committed decades ago with several other members of the Underground, and she's speaking to an eager young reporter, Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf, his stubble and horn-rim glasses letting us know he's taking himself very seriously indeed). Shepard, sensing a bigger story, is trying to track down those connected to Solarz, whether that's lawyer Jim Grant (Robert Redford), professor Jed Lewis (Richard Jenkins), or long-lost Underground member Mimi Lurie (Julie Christie, in a role that should've been Jane Fonda's). The cast of The Company You Keep is comically impressive—Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Anna Kendrick, Terrence Howard, Brendan Gleeson, and hell, Sam Elliott all show up—but even more impressive is the film itself. It's Redford's best since 1994's Quiz Show; like that film, it's inspired by history, but more interested in the kind of people who make it.
With a script by Lem Dobbs (The Limey, Haywire), based on Neil Gordon's novel, and a score by Cliff Martinez (Drive, Spring Breakers), it'd be surprising if The Company You Keep wasn't good—still, after a string of underwhelming films, it's a relief to see Redford's regained his confidence, passion, and clear-eyed skill. The story might be melodramatic (and, at least for all the lefty baby boomers in the audience, predictably back-patting), but The Company You Keep is still crackling and sharp, as full of conviction as its haunted characters. "Everything we said then is true now," Lurie angrily insists, and it's hard to argue with her. Watching this cast sprint from the FBI—frequently leaving them, and a too-slow Shepard, behind—elicits a couple of reactions. The first is that they should take it easy already, because they all look like they're about to break a hip. The second is that they'll never stop running.