Robert Redford has a new agenda driven film out. Unfortunately for him, the timing of his latest release is terrible.
As the nation struggles to recover from the recent tragic events that took place in Boston, moviegoers have little appetite for flicks that are sympathetic to terrorism and its evil machinations.
Redford produced, directed, and stars in “The Company You Keep,” a political action thriller that is derived from a script, which was adapted from Neil Gordon’s revisionist novel of the same name.
In the movie, Redford plays widower and single dad Jim Grant, who is an anti-Vietnam War radical and former member of the Weather Underground. Grant is being sought by law enforcement in relation to a bank robbery and murder.
For three decades Grant has posed as an Albany attorney in order to hide from the FBI. He finds himself in the position of being forced to flee, after an aggressive reporter (played by Shia LaBeouf) exposes his true identity.
Sharon Solarz (played by Susan Sarandon) is another fugitive who readies herself to surrender to the law.
Replete with hippie-era clichés, the dialogue of the film puts a positive spin on sixties’ radicalism.
“We made mistakes, but we were right,” Solarz says at one point.
The line is reminiscent of an interview that Bill Ayers, former real-life radical and associate of President Obama, had given a while back to The New York Times.
“I don’t regret setting bombs,” Bill Ayers said. “I feel we didn’t do enough.”
Similar to onscreen characters in Redford’s movie, Ayers and fellow Weather Underground member Bernardine Dohrn married, and the two became fugitives who had to alter their identities, change jobs, and move from one location to another.
Numerous film critics who apparently share the nostalgic fantasies of the Hollywood left were elated over Redford’s cinematic treatment of some of the more infamous radicals of the sixties’ era.
Redford’s movie “is streaked with melancholy: a disappointment that the second American Revolution never came,” says Time magazine.
Variety calls the film an “unabashedly heartfelt but competent tribute to 1960s idealism …” and muses that “there is something undeniably compelling, perhaps even romantic, about America’s ’60s radicals and the compromises they did or didn’t make.”
In reality, though, the film gives a highly sanitized view of the Weather Underground, ignoring the unquestionable terrorist activity that is the hallmark of the group’s dark legacy.
A radical left organization founded in 1969 on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan, the group ultimately became known as the Weathermen. The following line from a Bob Dylan song, “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” purportedly provided the inspiration for the group’s moniker: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”
The organization’s goal was a simple one, to overthrow the U.S. government. According to a position paper distributed in 1969, the group sought to destroy “US imperialism and achieve a classless world: world communism.”
The real Ayers and Dohrn were an integral part of the five people who initially ran the central committee of the Weathermen. Larry Grathwohl, an FBI informant who was with the Weatherman in 1969 and 1970, confirmed that Ayers and Dohrn were the two top leaders of the group.
Between 1970 and 1975, the group carried out a series of bombings of banks and government buildings. Ayers participated in the bombings of the New York City Police Department headquarters, United States Capitol building, and Pentagon.
Members of the organization claim that they had attempted to avoid human injury and had given evacuation warnings prior to the bombings. However, as a nail bomb was being assembled, which was being put together for nefarious use at a Non-Commissioned Officers’ dance at the Fort Dix U.S. Army base, the device prematurely detonated, taking the lives of three Weathermen members.
An FBI report later stated that the group possessed enough explosive to “level … both sides of the street.”
Emory University professor Harvey Klehr took issue with the claim that the Weatherman group was not trying to take lives with its bombings.
“The only reason they were not guilty of mass murder is mere incompetence. I don’t know what sort of defense that is,” Klehr stated.
Just days after the terrorist activities in Boston stunned the nation, “The Company You Keep” was expanded in its release and appeared in theaters in urban locations across the country.
President Obama told reporters at the White House in the aftermath of the Boston attack, “Any time bombs are used to target civilians it is an act of terror.”
According to the president’s definition, Redford, through his release of a film that rationalizes terrorism, has done a disservice to his career, and more importantly, the nation.