In The Company You Keep, Robert Redford plays a former member of the Weather Underground who was involved in a bank robbery that ended in tragic violence. For more than 30 years he’s been hiding out, living under an assumed identity as an activist lawyer in upstate New York. But when one of his former comrades (Susan Sarandon) turns herself in, his cover is blown, and he goes on the run looking up other hidden ex-members of the radical fringe. One (Richard Jenkins) is a professor; one (Julie Christie) is an unrepentant ideologue (she and Redford had a daughter, whom they abandoned); and one, played by — God bless him — a frizzy-white-haired, raspier-than-ever Nick Nolte, actually seems like a person who came out of the 1960s.
Aside from Nolte, just about everyone in The Company You Keep is earnestly high-minded and noble. The movie accepts that these people went to extremes to stop a war. It never considers that many members of the Weather Underground were driven by a nihilistic rage that became an end unto itself. Redford, who directed, has constructed the film as a meditation on one version of lost boomer dreams. Shia LaBeouf, who appears to be on hand to prove that a movie with a crusading newspaper reporter can still exist, perks up his scenes, and Redford acts with his usual hyperalert, placid control. (It’s hard to believe the man he’s playing ever wanted to bring down the system.) The Company You Keep chews on issues of violence in a muffled way, but restraint is not the quality this story was calling for. C+