- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © Weinstein Co.
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ith the economy still in the dumps, the last thing that anyone wants to see is a movie about corporate downsizing – especially one as soul-crushing as John Wells’ “The Company Men.” But the film industry has always been a great channel for discussing the world’s problems, and though it might be a little difficult to relate to at times due to the film's primary focus on the white-collar workforce, the acting is so good all around that it’s hard not to be drawn into this timely and engrossing drama about learning to cope with losing one's job when it’s the very thing that defines who you are.
The story centers around Global Transportation Systems, a shipbuilding company based out of Boston that is starting to feel the effects of the recession. In an attempt to cut costs and boost its stock price, GTX has begun making massive layoffs, and hotshot salesman Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is among the first of the casualties. Bobby is about as stubborn as they come, refusing to cave in to his wife’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) suggestion that they put their house up for sale because he’s confident he’ll get a new job in no time. But when months pass with no promising leads and another round of layoffs result in the firing of lifer Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and GTX co-founder Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones), Bobby begins to understand the gravity of the situation and starts planning for the future.
The idea of trying to find a new job in an economy where you’re competing against hundreds of other equally qualified people for only a handful of positions is pretty frightening stuff, and the film does well to capture that air of desperation that begins to eat away at Bobby’s dignity. Wells approaches the material like some Kübler-Ross case study for the corporate world, and whereas Bobby is stuck in denial over the fact that no one wants to hire him, Phil is practically defeated before he even receives his marching orders. His story is probably the saddest – a former GTX factory worker who’s risen within the ranks to a comfy middle management position – because at the age of 60, the chances of him being hired again are so slim that it’s almost futile to even try.
It’s a pretty despairing look at how losing your job can destroy someone's life, but it wouldn’t be nearly as effective without such strong performances from its cast. And though Chris Cooper makes the most of his limited screen time as the angry sad sack who declares that he'd rather shoot up the office with an AK-47 than go back to working in the factories, he’s easily outshined by his co-stars. Tommy Lee Jones is excellent as the corporate executive who doesn’t agree with how the company is handling the crisis; Ben Affleck provides the heart of the story as the young salesman who’s stripped of his masculinity when he realizes that he can no longer provide for his family; and Kevin Costner gives a refreshingly reserved performance as his blue-collar brother-in-law.
But while the inclusion of Costner’s character allows for Wells to explore the other side of the American workforce (one that could only dream of making a six-figure salary), it only makes Bobby’s troubles seem less dismal in comparison. The film loses some of the potency of its message as a result, but thanks to its socially relevant story and outstanding veteran cast, “The Company Men” succeeds as a harrowing portrait of contemporary corporate America that hits almost a little too close to home for comfort.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of “The Company Men” features all the standard extras you’d expect to find and nothing more. Though the audio commentary by writer/director John Wells is a good listen, the rest of the bonus material – including deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and a making-of featurette – is pretty lackluster stuff. Still, it’s a solid showing for a movie whose theatrical release went almost completely unnoticed.