Despite those strengths, Redford can’t help but show his ideological hand. While there are no good guys and bad guys here, there are clearly protagonists (the Weatherman fugitives) and antagonists (the press, the FBI). As much as Redford may want (and even think he’s achieving) philosophical relativity, he makes more of an effort to have his protagonists be understood and his antagonists to serve as foils who could stand to be more intellectually curious.

At one point early on a captured fugitive says, "We made mistakes. But we were right." That’s the film’s view in a nutshell. Given how it’s addressed to a young overzealous reporter who wasn’t even born until a decade after that tumultuous time further defines The Company You Keep as sort of a Sympathy For Radicals.

This tone favors the ex-Weathermen throughout, contrasting the protagonists' thoughtful and conflicted gravitas with eager knee-jerk reactions by the antagonists. When an FBI agent counters by saying "Terrorists justify terrorism. Don't get confused," it’s clear the movie isn’t offering this up so much as a moment of moral clarity but rather naïve simplicity. That this all serves as more of an indictment on the media than the militants makes its perspective feel awkwardly skewed, even a little blind.

The movie skirts the water's edge of being preachy without ever falling in, and consequently it's not unduly burdened by its biases. For those who don’t share its predispositions (myself included), The Company You Keep remains a compelling and worthwhile movie-going experience. Regardless of your views, this is a good bet for those seeking out well-crafted genre cinema that involves smart people having smart conversations about relevant topics with passionate counterpoints. It’s a gripping yarn, grippingly told, that gives you stuff to think about (even if it can’t resist the urge of suggesting what conclusions you should draw).

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: A few alcoholic beverages are consumed; no drunkenness.
  • Language/Profanity: Strong language throughout. The F-word and S-word are commonly used, occasionally pervasive. The A-word is used a handful of times, as are other more mild profanities. Six instances of the Lord’s name in vain.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: None
  • Violence/Other: Gunplay during a robbery; someone is shot and killed (seen through a security monitor).

Publication date: April 26, 2013