Friday, April 12, 2013
The Company You Keep
The anti Vietnam War movement in the late 60s and early 70s
was much more intense compared to the effort against the
current Afghanistan and Iraq War. The existence of radical
organizations such as the "
Weather Underground" would have been unthinkable in the
post-911 era. Despite their tactics, the ideology and
conviction of these baby-boomer activists remain relevant
decades later. What do they think now about that part of the
history and their actions? Acclaimed Oscar-winning
Redford's engrossing new film "The Company You
Keep" (USA 2012 | 125 min.) offers a fictional
account from some members of the
Weather Underground. As the director, producer, and the
lead actor of the film, he impressively creates a few
mesmerizing characters who reflect on that nostalgic period,
even the film's plot appears to be ludicrous.
The film opens with news reports in the 70s about a bank robbery in Michigan that kills a security guard. Members of Weather Underground are accused as the heists and have been pursued by the FBI ever since.
After thirty years hiding from the FBI, a member of the Weather Underground, Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon), turns herself in to the authority in Albany. That triggers the attention from an ambitious fame-seeking local newspaper reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf). Never mind that FBI has been investigating these activists for decades and fails to capture anyone, with just a search on Google, Ben is able to dig out and expose another member of the Weather Underground—Nick Sloan (Robert Redford), a recently widowed attorney under the name Jim Grant living with his 11-year-old daughter. FBI agent Cornelius (Terrence Howard) leads a nationwide man hunt for Nick.
As if a KGB spy in action, Nick leaves his daughter behind to his brother (Chris Cooper). He is on the run while meeting up other former Weather Underground members along the way. Apparently, he is not concerned to expose them at this moment, when the FBI is closing in following his every step. All he wants is to locate his former comrade Mimi (Julie Christie). He believes that Mimi is the only one whom FBI trusts—if Mimi says he has nothing to do with the bank robbery, the FBI is going to leave him alone. Oh, really?
If you can forgive the implausible story line, you will appreciate the lively portrait of some former Weather Underworld members in the film. Even given very limit screen presence, these memorable characters are terrifically performed by an ensemble of outstanding veteran actors including Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Julie Christie, and Richard Jenkins. They constantly steal the scene and grab the spot light in the film. Nick Nolte can't be any better in a "Liberty or Death" T-shirt.
In spite of these arresting characters, the unconvincing main plot is further distracted by couple perplexing subplots. They unnecessarily diverge our attention from the main story. Together, they reach to an embarrassing conclusion like the ending of a typical Hollywood film.
The film is an earnest attempt from director Robert Redford to look back those hippie years. It's hard not to be impressed and even inspired by the characters in the film. Yet, you watch the story unfolds with disbelief. Perhaps that's precisely the case even back in the 60s and 70s.