To keep the investigation of that tragic event dramatic, the film hinges on the hunt for former underground member Nick Sloan, now known as public interest lawyer Jim Grant. With both the F.B.I. and Albany Sun Times reporter Ben Shepard hot on his heels, Sloan flees to ferret out former collaborators in hopes of clearing his name. The expanding circle of those once with the Weather Underground cell involves a diversity of men and women. Some have made peace with their new identities while some remain antagonistic; some still feel marginalized while others have settled into the "bourgeois" life they rejected.
This hook allows screenwriter Lem Dobbs, adapting Neil Gordon's novel, to explore the real central issues: protest, guilt, morality, and, as Stolarz asks reporter Shepard, "What are you willing to take a risk for?" The radical idealism of the 60s and 70s is implicitly set in opposition to Shepard's alternately clever and devious tactics to get the headline and his name on the front page, no matter the issue or the cost. Individuals who cared deeply about their government and global justice confront a very different milieu without underestimating the considerable sacrifices and very real, harmful risks of past actions.
Redford's direction of this, his ninth film, is solid with sharp editing by Mark Day and attractive cinematography by Adriano Goldman. Most notable, it's a delight to watch this who's who of superb veteran actors: Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie, Chris Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Terrence Howard, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Jenkins, and Nick Nolte, all led by Redford as Sloan. The ways they deliver their dialogue and the nuances they inject into a scene are captivating.
"The Company You Keep" resonates with earlier Redford films, as well, with a couple lines directly from "Three Days of the Condor" and, when Redford played a reporter, "All the President's Men." Specifically one previous Weatherman protestors says, "You're going to harm more good people than you know," a comment made to Redford in "Three Days of the Condor" when his character heads to The New York Times with secret information. The issues raised are as relevant and provocative now as they were years ago, and just as absent from mainstream films and conversations. I hope "The Company You Keep" revives them. At a Landmark Theatre.