{2jtab: Movie Review}

The Company Men - Movie Review


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4 stars

The Company Men, the debut film of TV veteran John Wells (ER, The West Wing), takes a sobering look at what America went through during the financial and economic collapse of 2008. But whereas the images we watched play out before us on the nightly news were a remote, mile-high view of the crisis and the repercussions on business and banking, The Company Men is about the people it affected. Specifically, those forced to suddenly question the unquestionable entitlements and “guarantees” of the American way of life.

The setting is a large multi-national shipping conglomerate based in the Boston area. The main characters are three men representing three generations, who embody the concept of giving it all to the company. But with the company nearing a stock price disaster, human resources is forced to deliver a death by a thousand cuts that reaches all the way to the top.

At the top is Gene (Tommy Lee Jones), the heart and soul of the business who co-founded the company along with college roommate, best friend, and now CEO, Jim (Craig T. Nelson).  Together they’ve amassed enough wealth to swathe themselves in the comfort of corporate jets, $500 lunches, and Cape Cod cottages. But they work for the stockholders now. And with the stock price in the toilet, no one is above the cut of the axe. Including Gene, who prides himself on being the conscience of the company, constantly reminding Jim to do the right thing. But what is the right thing - loyalty to company and remembering that the employees are people with families, or doing whatever is necessary to stabilize the company’s stock price? This is the dilemma at the marrow of the film. And Wells explores that quandary with brutal intensity and heartbreaking honesty.

Wells’s story flits around from character to character, but most of it is told from the perspective of Bobby (Ben Affleck), a hotshot, CEO-in-training burning up the ladder of success within the company. He drives a Porsche, has a beautiful wife in Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt), and couldn’t imagine giving up his early morning workday rounds of golf at the club. We often feel like uninvited witnesses to Bobby’s slow descent into a humbling acceptance of his newfound unemployment. Affleck plays it perfectly though. He’s often asked to simply listen and react to those around him, whether it be his caring wife who’s constantly reminding him of the gravity of their situation, or the director of the outplacement center and her just-short-of-annoying pep talks. Most of Affleck’s roles don’t ask him to act with his face, but that’s what he does here and he gives a surprisingly effective performance of subdued humility. His best in years.

Chris Cooper is the third firee in the part of Phil Woodward, who represents the most tragically unemployable – a sixty-something, baggy-eyed, highly paid mid-level executive who worked his way up from the factory floor. He’s never worked anywhere else, has never put together a resume, and is now facing unemployment with a daughter entering her second year of college at Brown University. Reality surely produced thousands of Phils after 2008, and Cooper’s portrayal is a brutal slap in the face - the dark heart of the story.

Just when we feel as if we’re being asked to sob for the rich white executive who failed to properly prepare his golden parachute, we meet Jack (Kevin Costner), Bobby’s blue-collar brother-in-law who provides Bobby with temporary employment at his construction company. Costner – slightly pudgy and with thinning hair - is nearly unrecognizable. But he handles his character perfectly – equal parts playful jokester and caring supporter.

The film is not a comfortable one to sit through as it deals with the disturbing realities of unemployment that will likely hit a little too close to home for many. But it’s an important film to see as it functions as somewhat of a cathartic summarization of the national tragedy we’ve all shared. It’s so well acted and constructed in such a manner it allows viewers the opportunity to absorb the concept of job loss, and more closely sympathize with those affected. The film never wallows in its characters’ self pity and with a hopeful ending, Wells refuses to let his film sink into total hopelessness and overwhelming despair. After all, he does come from the pallid world of television. His first foray into feature filmmaking is certainly a success and gives us all a pensive look at the reality of today’s changed world.


{2jtab: Film Details}

The Company Men - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: Rated R for language and brief nudity.
: John Wells
: John Wells
Ben Affleck; Chris Cooper; Tommy Lee Jones; Rosemarie DeWitt
: Drama
Memorable Movie Quote:
"We work for the stockholders now"
The Weinstein Company
In America, We Give Our Lives To Our Jobs. It's Time To Take Them Back
Official Site: www.companymenmovie.com
Release Date: January 21, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date:
June 7, 2011

Plot Synopsis: Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is living the American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves him and co-workers Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) jobless, the three men are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands, and fathers.

Bobby soon finds himself enduring enthusiastic life coaching, a job building houses for his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) which does not play to his executive skill set, and perhaps the realization that there is more to life than chasing the bigger, better deal. With humor, pathos, and keen observation, writer-director John Wells (the creator of "ER") introduces us to the new realities of American life.

{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Details}

The Company Men - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars

Blu-ray Experience
4 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - June 7, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: Region A



  • Feature-length audio commentary with writer/Director John Wells.

Special Features:

  • Alternate Ending (480p, 12:52)
  • Deleted Scenes (480p, 7:16)
  • Making The Company Men (480p, 14:23)


{2jtab: Trailer}