Ho hum, time for yet another 60s-radicals-were-misunderstood film

How long has it been since Hollywood came up with an original idea? For that matter, how long has it been since Robert Redford had an original idea? In his latest film, The Company You Keep, Redford plays a radical from the 1960s who has been living under an assumed identity, and who gets exposed when the feds finally nab a co-conspirator. That was already a hackneyed plot device when I first saw it twenty-one years ago in Sneakers, which starred, er, Robert Redford. Four years earlier, the late River Phoenix starred in not one but two films about being the child of fugitives on the run, Little Nikita (parents were sleeper agents for the Soviet Union having a crisis of conscience) and Running on Empty (parents were misunderstood members of a Weather Underground-like organization). In these films and several others of the same ilk, viewers get treated to lectures about how virtuous these revolutionaries were, and how any deaths from bomb-throwing were either accidents, frame-ups, or the work of just a few bad apples in an otherwise glorious effort to free the world.

This time, though, Redford apparently dispenses with the thin veneer of fictional revolutionary organizations, opting instead to paint the Weather Underground with some sympathy. This was an organization, as Sean Hannity and the Boss Emeritus remind us, that murdered several people (and accidentally blew up a few of their own members) in a decade-long stretch of terrorist violence. This description from the Hollywood Reporter review is enough to understand Michelle’s “emetic” remark:

This establishing action is set up with methodical efficiency in Dobbs’ screenplay, gaining momentum when Jim/Nick whisks Isabel out of town and into the care of his brother (Chris Cooper) just as the FBI is closing in. Meanwhile, Ben continues to look for neat answers to messy questions. But a prison interview with Sharon gives him some understanding of the commitment and idealism of the ‘70s radicals. This affecting scene – Sharon shows regret for the mistakes that were made but refuses to repudiate her convictions – is played with perspicacity, toughness and compassion by Sarandon.

“Mistakes”? They built bombs and killed people with them, plotted and conducted armed robberies, and shot and killed people — those weren’t accidents. Plenty of activists had “commitment and idealism” in the 1970s, and do now, but relied on political argument, organization, and engagement in democratic processes. I don’t agree with some, such as Occupy organizers, just as they probably don’t agree with Tea Party organizers. The people being given sympathetic treatment in this instance, though, tried to impose their politics by murder, theft, violence, and terror. They’re not “activists,” they’re terrorists and murderers. The fact that Hollywood keeps trying to rehabilitate these people in the post-9/11 world speaks volumes about their values, especially Redford’s. (via The Right Scoop)

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