Company You Keep (8/10)
with Robert Redford, anyway? The last movie he directed, The
Conspirator (2010), tried to make Mary Surratt, a woman who could
stand as the most notorious villain in American history, into a
misunderstood hero. Surratt was the mother of one of the conspirators
who were involved in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. She could
have stopped it. Instead, she helped the conspirators, was caught,
tried, and hung, and properly so because the evidence against her was
overwhelming. Redford’s movie cooked the books by ignoring the evidence
against her and presented her as a sympathetic figure.
bases this film on the case of Kathleen Ann Soliah, who was a member of
the notorious Symbioneze Liberation Army (SLA) and participated in a
bank robbery that resulted in the death of 42-year-old Myrna Opsahl, a
mother of four who was in the bank depositing money for her church.
Soliah immediately went underground, marrying, having children and
living a quiet life in Minnesota before she was caught decades after the
robbery and rightfully sentenced to prison.
changes her name to Susan Solarz (leftwing icon Susan Sarandon), makes
her a member of the Weather Underground (of which the equally notorious
Bill Ayers was a leader) and the result is this sympathetic movie about
people who bombed the Pentagon and other government offices decades ago.
Redford’s idea here is to put a human face on these violent ideologues.
His theme seems to be that if something happened a long time ago and
people have been in hiding and leading exemplary lives, let’s just
forget the bombings and violent deeds for which they were responsible.
Naturally, the nature of the crimes they committed is minimized so that
their crimes seem to not to be anything other than memories. Redford
apparently feels there should be no responsibility or punishment for
what they did. (In fact, very few Weather Underground people were
prosecuted for two reasons: illegal government wiretaps and amnesty
granted by President Carter.)
plays one of the members of the group who has also been living
underground. Journalist Shia LaBeouf becomes suspicious and when Redford
goes on the run, LaBeouf tracks him. Even though the basis of the film
is offensive to lots of people who aren’t sympathetic to people who bomb
government buildings, it is still a very entertaining film if you can
suppress your opinion of the people who are pictured with such empathy
by fellow-traveler Redford.
cast is A-list, Chris Cooper, Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, Terrence
Howard, Julie Christie, Stanley Tucci, and Anna Kendrick, all of whom
are a pleasure to watch. But better than that is the presence of Sam
Ellliott, who has spent much of the past 30 years as a voice for
commercials and animated films. Elliott has been a favorite of mine for
a long time. His Lifeguard (1976) is one of history’s most
underrated and underappreciated films.
are dialogues that seem intended to picture these people as repentive,
and originally misguided in their methods but are now basically harmless
if not irrelevant. These scenes reminded me of the line from West
Side Story when the Jets are justifying their violent behavior by
telling Officer Krupke, “We’re depraved because we’re deprived.” I kept
thinking of Myrna Opshahl and her children and couldn’t muster much
sympathy for Redford and Christie and the rest of their compatriots.
is a talented director and this movie epitomizes that talent. The point
of the film irritated me, but I also enjoyed it, unlike Redford’s The