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Originally published Friday, April 19, 2013 at 5:30 AM

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‘The Company You Keep’: Robert Redford’s old-school thriller a pleasure to watch

In the old-school thriller “The Company You Keep,” Robert Redford is a man in hiding, trying to clear his name.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 3 stars

‘The Company You Keep,’ with Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Sam Elliott, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Susan Sarandon. Directed by Redford, from a screenplay by Lem Dobbs, based on the novel by Neil Gordon. 125 minutes. Rated R for language. Several theaters.

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There’s something comfortingly familiar about “The Company You Keep,” an old-school thriller directed by and starring Robert Redford. The cast is full of charismatic faces we’ve known for a long time: Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie, Richard Jenkins, Stanley Tucci, Chris Cooper, Nick Nolte — each of whom drop into the movie just long enough to make us remember why some people are movie stars. (Christie, turning up late in the film, practically makes the camera dissolve.) They’re assembled to tell a simple story, told in a refreshingly gimmick-free fashion: A former anti-war radical who’s been underground for 30 years (and wanted for murder) risks exposure, and must race against time to track down someone who can clear his name.

Redford plays that fugitive, who now calls himself Jim Grant and lives quietly in a New York suburb with his young daughter (singer Jackie Evancho, in a sweet acting debut), working as an idealistic lawyer. His cover is blown when a former cohort (Sarandon) goes public and a young reporter (Shia LaBeouf) figures out Grant’s identity — and off we go on a fairly slow-speed chase across the country, meeting various characters along the way.

“The Company You Keep” holds little suspense, because Redford and screenwriter Lem Dobbs have stacked the deck: Jim is relentlessly noble, LaBeouf’s character is self-absorbed and annoying (it’s pretty clear what Redford thinks of contemporary journalism) and there’s little doubt that somehow our hero will make things right. But it’s a treat to spend time with this cast, and to be reminded of the pleasures of a story carefully told. You wish the movie were a little snappier, but Redford doesn’t do snap; slow down with it, and enjoy the chase.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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