With our very own terrorist bomb scare so recently in the news, it’s useful to remember that extremist anti-war groups in the 1970s such as The Weather Underground brought a shocking level of homegrown violence to American soil. That murderous legacy is examined in The Company You Keep, a thoughtful drama directed by and starring Robert Redford. Jim Grant (Redford) is a decent lawyer and family man who’s been a pillar of his community for 30 years. But the unexpected arrest of terrorist fugitive Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon), wanted for the long-ago murder of a bank guard, sends a keen young reporter named Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) sniffing around Grant. And Grant, whose real name is Nick Sloan, is wanted on that same warrant. So he goes on the lam in the middle of the night, just steps ahead of a pugnacious FBI agent (Terrence Howard) determined to take him down.
What follows is a low-key thriller as much as a drama, one that examines the morality of violent protest as well as the scars borne by idealists who convinced themselves that the use of lethal force was appropriate when their country was engaged in an unjust war (and was beating and even killing its own student protestors). As Grant/Sloan furtively reconnects with several Weather alumni in search of an ex-lover of the time (Julie Christie) who may hold the key to his dilemma, he is pursued by Shepard as well as the FBI. And the film suggests that both an FBI agent ruthlessly wielding state power and an ambitious reporter with no regard for the collateral damage his front-page stories inflict on the innocent, are carrying their own payload of moral taint.
A decent albeit occasionally talky film, Company should get an award for its amazing cast, which includes Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Stanley Tucci, and Brendan Gleeson. Although it lacks the savvy political edge of All The President’s Men, this is part of cinema’s vanishing breed: a film for adults.
The Company You Keep plays July 26-27 at UVic’s Cinecenta.
Bang Bang, You’re Dead
RED is a fictitious (one hopes) CIA acronym for “retired, extremely dangerous” and was first used as the title of a droll and violent black comedy three years ago, wherein two retired CIA buddies were the subjects of a mysterious CIA assassination plot. Happily, Frank (Bruce Willis) and Marvin (John Malkovich) were able to show the youngsters a thing or three about lethal “wetwork,” and went on to not only save themselves but also save the day as they short-circuited a dire conspiracy.
The movie was a hit and Frank and Marvin are back in RED 2, and reunited with MI6 counterpart Victoria (Helen Mirren, who claims she based her purse-lipped and murderous character on Martha Stewart) and Frank’s girlfriend, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), who is eager to join in on all the action even though Frank just wants to play house with his civilian cutie. Adding to the fun, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and David Thewlis are scenery-chewing ride-alongs.
Once again, these crusty, squabbling characters find themselves evading a large contingent of agents trying to blow them up or mow them down. It’s all part of a baroque, globetrotting plot that centres on a Cold War-era nuclear bomb that has been hiding somewhere in Moscow for 30 years and is now coveted by various factions. The storyline is both generic and messy, and much of the violence seems unnecessary. In truth this would just be a cable flick were it not for all the great performers, whose alchemical wit and panache elevate brutal banality into passable entertainment.
RED 2 continues at the Empire 6, SilverCity, Empire Uni 4, and Westshore.