Run, Robert, run: The talented Mr. Redford has made an art form out of going on the lam, whether it’s from frontier superposses (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), Southern lawmen (The Chase), corporate overlords (The Electric Horseman) or intelligence-agency spooks (Three Days of the Condor). That last film casts a particularly large shadow, tone-wise, over the actor-director’s latest project, in which Redford plays a do-gooder lawyer standing up for truth, justice and the American way. Then a wanted ’60s radical (Susan Sarandon) turns herself in after decades of living underground, and an intrepid reporter (Shia LaBeouf) uncovers a connection between the prisoner, a bank robbery and the legal eagle. Soon, our towheaded star is breaking out fake-name passports, cleverly slipping past the Feds and surfing from one safe house to the next.
Redford’s devotion to old-school liberalism and ’70s socially informed dramas has been a directorial-career constant, and at its best, The Company You Keep feels like a movie you’d have seen in 1975—one informed by political righteousness and made for adults. Exploring the legacy of America’s up-against-the-wall revolutionary flirtations means more than merely name-dropping the SDS and Kent State, however, and screenwriter Lem Dobbs and the director have an annoying penchant for reducing a who’s who of AARP-age actors (Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins, Sam Elliott…Julie freakin’ Christie!) into mouthpieces for creaky, cranky leftist rants. Even LaBeouf’s shoe-leather wunderkind starts to seem less like a character and more like an opportunity for Redford to rail against the sorry state of the fourth estate—a legit concern, if one that, like much of the film, might have been more effective if not filtered through so much graybeard griping.