The last few movies directed by Robert Redford — 2007’s “Lions for Lambs” and 2010’s “The Conspirator” — were such dispiriting moral lectures that “The Company You Keep” comes as a relief. In short, Redford is interested in telling stories again, rather than pounding us on the head for our civic and historical sins. That’s not to say the new film doesn’t have plenty on its mind, from the ethical bankruptcy of the media to the costs of political passion in the 1960s and today. But it moves, and it doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, and it sticks in your mind for longer than you’d think.
In the opening scenes, we see a Canadian housewife and mom, played by Susan Sarandon, bid farewell to her home and drive across the US border, where she’s immediately arrested at a gas station. A onetime student radical responsible for the death of a bank guard in an early-’70s robbery, she’s ready to pay for her crimes, and her appearance heats up the search for her confederates by the FBI (headed by Terrence Howard) and the press. Ben Shepard (Shia LeBeouf) is a slick young reporter for an Albany, N.Y., paper who starts nosing around a local public interest lawyer named Jim Grant (Redford) and quickly smokes him out as one of the Weather Underground crew, Nick Sloane. Jim/Nick hits the road, and we’re off.