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One of the most suspenseful thrillers of recent years, The Company You Keep succeeds due to a tight screenplay, crisp directing and a phenomenal cast.
Thirty years ago, four members of the Weather Underground, a domestic terrorist group, robbed a bank in Michigan, killing a security guard. They evade capture until the present day, when Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon, Cloud Atlas) is arrested at a gas station while going to turn herself in. Intrigued by the case, journalist Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf, Lawless) begins investigating another of the surviving bank robbers, Nick Sloan (Robert Redford, The Conspirator). Sloan goes on the run to avoid detection from both Shepard and the authorities, searching for his old flame and fellow activist Mimi Lurie (Julie Christie, Away from Her). Both Shepard and Sloan encounter an eclectic cast of characters en route to the film’s exciting climax.
Screenwriter Lem Dobbs has written a masterful script that keeps the audience guessing up until the film’s end. Each character gets his or her moment and contributes an integral part to the story’s tangled web. Robert Redford directs the film with a sure hand, pacing the action perfectly so the viewer is never bored.
As an actor, Redford expertly leads the cast, showing the pain and fear that Sloan feels after running for so long. LaBeouf makes Shepard’s dogged pursuit of the facts ring true; this is some of the best work of his career. Christie lays bare the heart of an activist whose cause has passed. Sarandon makes her small role count, and she and LaBeouf share the best scene in the film, a prison interview.
The film’s extensive supporting cast must be mentioned. Nick Nolte (Gangster Squad) gives a gruffly funny performance as one of Sloan’s former cronies. Richard Jenkins (Jack Reacher) does brilliant work in his few scenes as a former adversary of Sloan’s who he must turn to for help. Stanley Tucci (Jack the Giant Slayer), as Shepard’s editor, nails the role of the jaded elder newspaperman. Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect) gives a sarcastic edge to an old flame of Shepard’s.
The Company You Keep is an edge-of-your-seat thriller bolstered by a strong screenplay, assured direction and fantastic acting. The period between Oscar season and summer blockbusters is usually when studios dump their trash; hopefully, this film is the exception that will soon prove to be the rule.