As a director, Robert Redford has spent the last several years lecturing his audiences about history and political activism in the dull, didactic movies Lions for Lambs and The Conspirator. He continues that trend with The Company You Keep, which isn’t quite as condescending as Lions for Lambs or as dry as The Conspirator but is just as uninteresting, and it has the added problem of being poorly plotted.
Redford stars as former 1960s radical Nick Sloan, who’s been in hiding for the past 30 years following a botched bank robbery that left a security guard dead. When one of his co-conspirators decides to turn herself in, Nick has to go back on the run, pursued by both the FBI and an ambitious local reporter (Shia LaBeouf).
Although the movie is structured as a thriller, there’s no urgency or suspense, and Redford takes his time checking in with various supporting characters who turn out to be largely irrelevant. He’s recruited an impressive cast (including Richard Jenkins, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Anna Kendrick and Brendan Gleeson, among others) for what often amount to throwaway parts, but the parade of familiar faces does more to distract than enhance. LaBeouf’s character never connects effectively with the story’s central themes, and he comes off as more weaselly than dogged. He’s meant to represent the next generation learning about the ideals of the ’60s, but those ideals are delivered in a heavy-handed, pedantic way that completely obscures their value.