In both instances, Goldman has adopted what he calls "sophisticated realism" to get the most out of the political thriller, which is Redford's best movie in years, and the eccentric black comedy that's already attracting Oscar buzz as part of the Weinstein Company's slate of contenders.
"Realism is something you can still make bigger than life as opposed to naturalism, which is taking whatever you get from a location and using it," Goldman remarks. "I really like the challenge of making a place look real, like constructing a suburban newpaper office out of an empty room in 'The Company You Keep' or shooting in a big house in the countryside the production bought for 'August: Osage County.'"
It's the dark, hand-held, contrasty, doc quality that first brought Goldman acclaim with "Sin Nombre," and then brought him to the attention of Redford after winning the cinematography award at Sundance in 2009. But initially Redford met with Goldman to shoot his Lincoln assassination movie, "The Conspirator." Although it didn't work out, Redford promised him his next movie and then made good on that promise.
It's just as well since "The Company You Keep" is more in keeping with the look of the "Sin Nombre" road movie shot in Mexico. Sure, the cinematographer looked at "All the President's Men" and "Three Days of the Condor," incorporating the iconic gritty and grainy atmosphere from the iconic political conspiracy thrillers while avoiding any dated qualities. But more important was the flow. Aside from performance that's what he learned most from Redford, who's managed to be consumately bi-polar as actor/director.
"We wanted to follow the same rules they followed but with a more contemporary look," Goldman adds. "The camera needs to follow the characters through the road trip. The film is very political but it's also a road movie. The whole flow was important. A guy who travels from New York to Chicago and we shot that in Vancouver. It's not hard to find amazing landscapes in Vancouver but they were not always good for this story. It was hard to resist beautiful. I wanted to put Redford in a different environment."
"The Company You Keep" is like a bridge between the past and the present both literally and metaphorically. Redford plays an attorney in New York -- a widower with a young daughter (newcomer Jackie Evancho, the singing sensation from "America's Got Talent"). We glimpse a tender, paternal side to the movie star that's quite refreshing. But it turns out he's been hiding out for 40 years: a fugitive wanted for a murder he didn't commit when he was a militant anti-war activist. But when he's sniffed out by an ambitious young journalist (Shia LaBeouf), a combination of Woodward and Bernstein, Redford
flees for his life and is forced to confront the past one last time. Along the way, it becomes clear that he's matured while some of his friends, particularly old flame Julie Christie, refuse to give up the fight.