This is a review of the movie The Company Men.
The Company Men is a movie that touched me deeply. As a veteran of two large, multinational corporations, I survived probably 40 RIFs (reduction in force), which is another term for firings. In both my stints I learned a few rules:
- Those that make the decision on cuts distance themselves from the personal loss.
- The corporation always makes decisions using numbers.
- No one is safe.
I was 20 during my first round and told a good friend he was safe and not on the list. Only when he was on his way to talk with management did I learn he was being cut. One time I was sent out of town to deliver the news, but fully expected to be let go after I sent someone on their way. Thus, I have become very sensitive to large firings.
The Company Men features an ensemble cast including:
- Craig T. Nelson
- Tommy Lee Jones
- Ben Affleck
- Chris Cooper
- Kevin Costner
The story shows the genesis of the firings, the act of firing and dealing with the aftermath. What is unique about the story is the focus on two of characters portrayed by Affleck and Cooper. Affleck being the younger, more positive person and Cooper being the old hand accustomed to his lifestyle and never knowing a plan B.
Among their stories are the give and take between Nelson and Lee Jones, partners who do not see eye to eye with how to proceed in their business. Nelson is cut throat and proceeds to build a new corporate headquarters, while Lee Jones is more thoughtful and determined.
What I enjoyed about The Company Men
Acting – The acting is superb in this movie and no one falters. There are two scenes in particular that show true range and skill. Affleck and Costner discussing Affleck’s fallback career will hit you in the gut, while Cooper’s scenes dealing with being fired will render your insides mushy.
Story – The story moves quickly and it is easy to follow. You get glimpses of each character’s lives that are rich in meaning and feeling without being over bearing. When Lee Jones speaks with his wife, you know the count.
Realism – The emotion, processes and actions are very real when the movie shows the firings and after effects. The screen capture in this review shows Cooper surveying the wholesale clearing of floors of the company. This is something I’ve personally experienced and can tell you the scene captures it perfectly. Affleck’s journey on interviews for positions mimics real life.
While I disagreed with the ultimate ending of the movie, I do understand why it was chosen. Some may not agree with it, but the path the movie takes makes sense and impacts you. If you’re looking for a well acted, solidly written movie that allows you to understand what a man feels like being corporate chattel then The Company Men is for you.