"Pacifist View of Liberal Civil Disobedience"
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP is a terrible title for a drama about a 1960s antiwar activist who, years later, tries to clear his name for a politically-inspired murder he did not do. Though the movie favors peaceful civil disobedience over political violence, it never really questions the antiwar movement of the Sixties, which turned out to be morally and historically wrong.
The movie opens with the FBI capturing a woman who, 35 years ago, was involved in a bank robbery and murder committed by violent antiwar activists of the 1960s Weather Underground Organization. The Weathermen, as they were called, were a militant, openly communist wing of the antiwar movement. Their states goal was to overthrow the U.S. government and establish a communist tyranny. Formed in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan, they were guilty of many bombings around the country, including one at the Pentagon and one at the State Department.
A young reporter, Ben, finds out that a friend of the woman had asked a local lawyer, Jim Grant, to represent the woman, but Grant had declined. Ben discovers that Jim, a widower with a young daughter, is actually a former member of the Weathermen. Jim was accused of being involved in the bank robbery too, but he actually wasn’t involved with the robbery and had broken ties with the group when he disagreed with its violent tactics.
With the FBI and Ben hot on his trail, Jim goes on a cross-country journey to track down the one person who can clear his name. As he does, other secrets are revealed ad other lives are turned upside down.
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP is an awful title. However, the movie is an effective, suspenseful drama with good performances. Leading the talented cast are Robert Redford as Jim Grant, Julie Christie (DOCTOR ZHIVAGO) as the one person who can clear Jim’s name, and Shia LaBeouf as the young reporter trying to make a name for himself. Redford also directs the movie, and it’s one of his better directing efforts.
Regarding the movie’s political and philosophical content, Redford uses his movie to promote a political viewpoint favoring nonviolent, peaceful protests and civil disobedience. A conversation between his character and that of Julie Christie’s set the stage for this. Her character still believes in violent, criminal civil disobedience to injustice, but Redford’s character has rejected it. Also, his character pleads with her to surrender and help him clear his name. In another scene, between Redford’s character and the reporter, Redford’s character urges the reporter to hide certain facts about some innocent people so that the media won’t expose their relationship to him and potentially destroy their lives.
Thus, in addition to the movie’s theme that peaceful political protests are better than violent ones, the movie also promotes the idea of protecting the innocent, at the risk of hurting oneself. Consequently, Julie Christie’s character must decide whether to surrender and go to jail to help clear Jim Grant’s name. The reporter must decide whether to hide some details about Jim’s life to protect his innocent friends, at the risk of hurting the reporter’s own career. These subplots imply that self-sacrifice is one of the virtues that Redford honors. That said, there’s nothing else particularly redemptive, much less Christian, about THE COMPANY YOU KEEP, which seems to have a humanist, secular worldview otherwise.
Despite its positive qualities, THE COMPANY YOU KEEP has a couple major moral and political defects. First, the movie contains 20 or more “f” words and more than 10 strong profanities, plus other foul language. Second, though the movie does favor peaceful political protest, it never questions the basic ideology of the antiwar, counter-culture movement of the 1960s and 70s. The movie seems to accept the politically correct, leftist view that American society is still unjust and corrupt. In fact, in one scene, one of the former radicals says the modern United States government murdered “millions” of people and waged “genocide” against Asians or Vietnamese during the 1960s. Her revisionist history goes completely unanswered in the movie.
In reality, of course, it was the communists in Vietnam and Cambodia who engaged in brutal mass murder and oppression of other people. Similar things happened in the Soviet Union and China under the communist rulers in those countries. Furthermore, as documents released from the Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall show, the antiwar, counterculture movement in the 1960s and 70s was propped up by millions of dollars from Soviet Union spies, front groups, and provocateurs.
It’s irresponsible for any movie to let such radical revisionist history go unanswered, even if it is just one line of dialogue in one scene. Be that as it may, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution overall for THE COMPANY YOU KEEP.
(HH, PC, B, C, RHRH, APAP, LLL, V, N, A, DD, M) Strong but mitigated humanist worldview with light politically correct, leftist view validating antiwar, counter-culture movement of the 1960s and 70s, with some moral elements of doing the right thing to protect the innocent and favoring peaceful protest over violent protest, plus a Christian, redemptive nod toward sacrifice, with strong revisionist history, Anti-American dialogue in one scene accusing the U.S. of genocide and murdering millions, a wild, false accusation that goes unanswered; 45 obscenities (including 20 or more “f” words) and 11 strong profanities; some very light violence includes FBI arrests and chases wanted people and a punch, plus bank video shows robbery and one person killing a security guard but nothing graphic; no sex scenes but there are references to an unmarried birth and couple spends night in a cabin but movie leaves it completely up in the air whether couple actually slept together; brief upper male nudity; brief alcohol references; no smoking but leftist woman is unapologetic about smuggling marijuana; and, leftist radicals evade the law and hero has to let a criminal go free and mislead the FBI in order to convince her to turn herself in on her own and help clear his name.
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP opens with the FBI capturing a woman who, 35 years ago, was involved in a bank robbery and murder committed by violent antiwar activists of the 1960s. A young reporter, Ben, finds out a friend of the woman had asked a local lawyer, Jim Grant, to represent her, but Grant had declined. Ben discovers that Jim, a widower with a young daughter, is a former member of the Weathermen. Jim was accused of being involved in the bank robbery too, but he wasn’t. With the FBI and Ben hot on his trail, Jim goes on a cross-country journey to track down the one person who can clear his name.
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP is an awful title. However, the movie is an effective, suspenseful drama with good performances led by Robert Redford, who also directs. Redford uses his movie to promote a political viewpoint favoring peaceful protests over violent ones. His movie also promotes self-sacrifice. However, there’s a lot of strong foul language and some unanswered, leftist political content. So, MOVIEGUIDE(r) advises extreme caution for THE COMPANY YOU KEEP.