With public anger over the financial meltdown of 2008 directed at corporate executives, it may seem unfeasible to create a movie that makes an audience feel sorry for them.
However, “The Company Men” manages to pull it off
The film follows the story of three men working for a large company. Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck), a man waiting on a promotion and raising a family, Gene McCarly (Tommy Lee Jones), a supervisor trying to keep his workers employed in the middle of the recession and Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper), who’s working under Gene and is worried about the economic turmoil.
When the company begins downsizing, Bobby is immediately let go and has to begin his search for a new job. Meanwhile Gene tries to have integrity and defend the workingman in a business that is becoming more and more about the stockholders and Phil is kept on edge as more and more people around him are fired.
“The Company Men” is engaging and emotional right from the start. The film balances what it’s like to be in a competitive job market whether you’re young or old and how people of integrity are becoming the old guard at many companies that are only concerned with how to make a bigger profit.
The pacing is fantastic. The film wonderfully takes its time exploring the story yet also captures the fast moving world of finances. It also balances the story of the three men very well. The audience has time to become attached to all of the characters that deal with their individual trials.
Audience members can relate to these characters, too. Bobby represents what it’s like to be a person looking for a job with little success while knowing that people are depending on him, Phil shows how scary it can be for older people to enter an evolving job market and Gene shows what it’s like to be an executive who is at odds with his peers.
It was great to see these plot threads each get their own time while also intersecting. The recent film “Hereafter,” directed by Clint Eastwood, shows how following three characters in a film can go wrong. “The Company Men” shows how it can get it right.
I didn’t have a quarrel with any single performance in this film. Ben Affleck has been building a great streak lately with his other recent film “The Town” and now this.
Watching the film an audience can really see how far Affleck has come. In the ‘90s, Affleck was an actor who you would see in a role, but would still see Affleck instead of the character. That has completely disappeared with Affleck really getting into the character and showing a lot of emotion.
The one who really steals the show, though, is Tommy Lee Jones who was absolutely brilliant in the picture. This is probably one of Jones’ best performances and can be held up with his work in “No Country for Old Men” and “The Fugitive.”
Chris Cooper is strong as well; playing a very sad role. The emotion comes through heavily and he made the character very easy to get invested in. Kevin Costner was also in the film as Affleck’s brother-in-law, however the role is not that large. Despite this, the performance is well done and he lends some emotional weight.
One of the only flaws that make it difficult for people to enjoy is the luxurious lifestyle that these people were living before the recession hit. All the characters in this film own nice cars, beautiful homes upwards of $800,000, and memberships at fancy golf courses.
This at times does make it difficult to feel sorry for the characters when you think of some of the irresponsible spending that these characters were doing. Fortunately, this is largely avenged when we get deeper into the minds of these characters and they begin to show their true colors.
Overall, “The Company Men” is a very good film. The ensemble is incredibly powerful and can keep the audience invested throughout the entire picture. Despite my small flaws with the characters at times, I still believe that they were well done. 4 out of 5.
This review was first published in Minnesota State University’s student blog Doing it Downtown, covering the downtown areas of Moorhead, Minn. and Fargo, N.D.