**1/2 (out of four)
Taking a break from being a tabloid punchline, Shia LaBeouf stars in “The Company You Keep” with an all-star team of veterans: Robert Redford (who also directed), Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie, Chris Cooper, Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, Stanley Tucci, Sam Elliott and Brendan Gleeson.
That list is ridiculous.
The movie examines what people do for a cause until it becomes a study of what they do to not get caught. LaBeouf plays Ben Shepard, an Albany SunTimes reporter practically drooling with eagerness to break a big story. He latches onto the arrest of a woman (Sarandon) who was on the lam for 30 years after a Michigan bank robbery and murder, and a guy (Redford) who’s got too many denials and short answers not to have a few related secrets hidden away.
LaBeouf brings determined zeal to a young news fiend susceptible to becoming emotionally involved in his work. Speaking of which: It’s absurd and unethical that Ben tries to romance Rebecca (Winnetka native Brit Marling), who may have a connection to the events he’s trying to understand. The movie comes from Neil Gordon’s novel and touches on the real-life Weather Underground movement during the Vietnam War.
As a filmmaker, Redford (“The Conspirator,” “Lions for Lambs”) lately has been bogged down in issue-driven blandness, and eventually “Company” succumbs to speechifying and a lack of connection to its initial heat. A small role for Anna Kendrick also can’t compensate for a story that would be much more complicated (and less predictable) had it dealt with the complexities of the guilty more than the purity of the innocent.
What begins as a crackling, ‘70s-style political thriller drags into a chatty, less-than-gripping drama that criticizes the press only to undermine its purpose. Consider me offended.
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