ďThe Company You KeepĒ
It actually happened just a couple of years ago: a woman whoíd been part of a radical underground protest group of the 1960ís, long wanted by the FBI for her involvement in a bank robbery in which a security guard was killed, was found quietly living as a suburban housewife, with a new identity and long-time neighbors who had no idea.
Susan Sarandon plays Sharon Solarz, who really was part of the bank robbery, but this begins the unraveling of the rest of the former radicals-in-exile, as well. A young, persistent newspaper reporter from Albany, Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) uncovers her connection with Billy Cusimano (Stephen Root), a local produce grower, who in turn is recommending Jim Grant (Robert Redford), a widowed local attorney who steadfastly refuses to take the case, but it turns out heís one of the fugitives, also, formerly named Nick Sloan. Now Sloan is driven into hiding, but he must first drop off his 11-year-old daughter Isabel (Jackie Evancho) with his brother Daniel (Chris Cooper), a New York doctor who didnít want to get involved--- but now the FBI is on the case, though Diana (Anna Kendrick), the agent who was Shepardís college friend, is in trouble with her boss Cornelius (Terrence Howard) for supplying any kind of information to the press at all. On the lam, Nick Sloan manages to locate an old rabble-rouser colleague, Donal Fitzgerald (Nick Nolte), now a lumber yard owner who likes to hire ex-cons, who puts him in touch with Jed Lewis (Richard Jenkins), now a history professor who finally shows him how to reach Mimi Lurie (Julie Christie), through her wealthy boyfriend, Mac McLeod (Sam Elliot). Mimi is the one person who could finally clear Sloan, but also the one person whom Sloan really needs to see face-to-face, because it seems they have some unfinished business with each other.
Meanwhile, Shepard, despite protestations from his editor, Ray Fuller (Stanley Tucci), is running down clues in Michigan, and stumbles across the old prosecutor, Henry Osborne (Brendan Gleason), through charming his grown daughter Rebecca (Brit Marling), and thatís when Shepard discovers the one secret that everybodyís hiding from everyone else. Now Shepard has to wrestle with his own conscience, as he weighs whether telling everything he knows is the right thing to do. And that, of course, is the same moral dilemma that has enveloped all of these characters for the last 40 years. So, is justice served through paying for past transgressions? Or does satisfying the demands of justice really only result in vengeance, because it doesnít hunger and thirst for righteousness; only retribution?
ďThe Company You KeepĒ sounds a bit convoluted, and it is. It sounds unlikely, and itís that, too, except that itís based on a true story involving the Weather Underground. Oh, and Robert Redford makes for a pretty unlikely father of an 11-year-old, too, but thatís a casting quibble, and heís the Director. Those of us who lived through this time in the turbulent 1960ís will agonize over Sloanís dilemma: he got into the protest movement because he didnít want to see innocent people get hurt, and he got out for the same reason, but in the meantime, the one thing he didnít want to see happen is precisely what happened. The question now is how to live with the guilt and the irony, and whether righting one wrong creates another kind of heartbreak. Now thatís a complexity worth examining. No matter what company you keep.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephenís Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas