Robert Redford’s Jim Grant speaks a poignant line in his latest film, The Company You Keep, stating, “Secrets are dangerous things. We all think we want to know them, but if you’ve ever kept one yourself then you understand to do so is not just knowing something about someone else, it’s discovering something about yourself.”
As the film’s ominous title suggests, The Company You Keep is about uncovering secrets and what doing so can mean for the people keeping them and those desperate to reveal them. Driven by dynamic performances from an all-star cast, The Company You Keep is as much about what is said as what is not said, all underscored by a restrained, but moving score from Cliff Martinez.
Martinez’s rock band roots have made him no stranger to electrifying his scores and pushing the boundaries of standard orchestration. Unlike the thriller pulse Martinez created for last year’s Arbitrage (another story about a man who is not everything he first seems), he takes a different approach to The Company You Keep relying heavily on the use of one of his go-to instruments, the baschet cristal, to create music that hovers in the background like an unwanted thought, dissonant while still being memorable.
The Company You Keep is rooted in how people interact with one another – when they are scared, when they are defensive, when they are righteous, when they are wrong. Martinez’s score highlights these varying emotions as though each is contained in a glass jar and all he has to do is run a finger around the rim to bring that particular emotion out. Martinez weaves an intricate tapestry of sound that has a core in the baschet cristal and then combines that with specific percussive, string, and synth elements. In a story centered on how these various people interact and are linked to one another, the score wisely stays in the background to keenly amplify the adrenaline when beat reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) closes in on Jim or to underscore the more emotional moments between Jim and his former compatriot, Mimi Lurie (Julie Christie.)
The score may shy from the spotlight, but that doesn’t mean it lacks resonance as themes introduced in “We Could Have Made A Difference” are recalled in “The Cabin” and “Father and Daughter Reunion” to create a musical connection between the characters in those scenes. The same idea occurs with the musical themes in “You Have A Full Green Light” and “I Met Your Daughter,” each driven by similar kinetic, haunting electric guitar refrains that make two tracks that, based on title alone, would seemingly have nothing to do with one another start to reflect each other.
The Company You Keep is more a mystery than a thriller, and the score is wise to not give anything away, working instead to allow the story to unfold in its own time. While the score certainly moves and adapts to reflect the actions and emotions on screen, it never loses its overall ominous feeling which helps to give the film its mysterious tone. As the film slowly uncovers and reveals its various layers, the score follows suit with music that embodies each moment, but never allows you to feel completely at ease.
The only time the score really starts to come unhinged is in “Weathermen,” an apt moment considering the track is named after a renegade group of antiwar radicals at the heart of the narrative. But even in this piece, the baschet cristal comes back in to smooth things over, acting like the musical equivalent of a cover up while giving listeners the only moment that may hint at the truth.
The score, and film, end with “Can’t Say I’m Happy To See You,” a negative sounding track that is actually quite hopeful — full of rich, soaring strings. The Company You Keep may take many different twists and turns, but it is rooted in a human narrative about the true consequences of choices – whether you choose to lie, to act, to forget. The world is not simply black and white and The Company You Keep proves that as Martinez’s score moves along with these characters in and out of that ever-changing gray area.
The soundtrack for The Company You Keep is available through Milan Records.
1. “You Have A Full Green Light”
2. “We Could Have Made A Difference”
3. “Who Is You Best Reporter?”
4. “Somewhere Someone Knows Something”
7. “Still Got The Juice”
8. “Nothing But A Dream You Once Had”
9. “On The 10 Yard Line”
10. “The Cabin”
11. “Put The Pieces Together”
12. “Real Estate Records and Plot Maps”
13. “I Met Your Daughter”
14. “Father and Daughter Reunion”
15. “I Can’t Say I’m Happy To See You”
All songs on this soundtrack composed by Cliff Martinez.