Thursday, 25 April 2013

REVIEW - THE COMPANY YOU KEEP


Robert Redford trots out all the big-name actors he can lay his hands on in The Company You Keep, which is either a political thriller wrestling with its inner character drama or a character drama with a flimsy facade of political thriller. The effect of this confusion is one of a naturally straightforward work cluttered with too many familiar faces and too much plot. Writer Lem Dobbs' solution is to roughly sketch each plot strand out and hope that it develops itself - no one component is especially complex, so it's not unreasonable for Dobbs and Redford to expect us to be able to fill in the gaps, but cumulatively it leaves this film constantly stranded in a state of exposition, starting anew with each scene. And, winding our way through all these people and all their connections, we come to realise that this is actually a very simple plot overall, in which all the politicising is of little consequence. It is not of little interest, though, and Redford being Redford, he has called upon an ensemble of seminal figures of 1970s Hollywood liberalism, such as Susan Sarandon and Julie Christie, and you can taste his and their fervour in moments when they're given an opportunity to sink their teeth into some good old-fashioned agitprop. The awkward pacing shudders the film to an inevitable halt towards the end, as Redford resolves his film abruptly, messily, with a series of short, ineffective scenes which thoroughly stamp out whatever tension was there in the first place (not much, actually). Shia LaBeouf is surprisingly likeable when he dials down the corny charm and enthusiasm - truth is, reporters like him do not exist, and the more aware he makes us of this, the harder The Company You Keep is to relax into. It's always fun to follow such a character on his hunt for a high-profile story, unfolding before his and our eyes, but Redford too frequently ditches LaBeouf and instead hones in on himself, on a tedious trek across America, which it would appear he accomplished entirely on foot. Topless. Always one step ahead of those FBI lame-ducks. Definitely not grey. No sir, it's all natural.