Put Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper in a movie and you’re pretty much guaranteed I’ll go see it. Of course, it helps if the movie is also good, and The Company Men is good – quite good actually. Jones and Cooper star along with Ben Affleck as long time employees of huge manufacturing conglomerate GTX. They’ve all spent their entire careers at the place – they are “company men.”
But as so often happens in America today, the company that they have let define their lives finds them expendable. Ben Affleck’s character Bobby Walker is the first to get the ax. At first he comes across as a Porsche-driving d-bag who is cocky enough to believe that he’ll land a new job in no time, no problem. But as the job hunt extends from days into weeks into months and his world starts to crumble, you feel for the guy. He loses everything he’s worked for – the country club membership, the fancy car, the house. Bobby and his family end up moving back in with his parents and he ends up doing carpentry work with for his blue-collar brother-in-law played by Kevin Costner. He becomes in his words “a 37-year old unemployed loser.”
Cooper’s character Phil Woodward is next to go at GTX and he’s in an even tougher spot than Bobby. With two kids in college and no other jobs on his resume, he’s too young to retire and too old to get hired. Jones plays Gene McClary, the company exec with a conscience trying to swim against a tide of corporate greed. But speaking his mind only gets him a pink slip as well – even though he and the company founder, played by Craig T. Nelson, have been friends since college. Financially he’ll be fine, but again he’s a guy who has defined his life by the job he did, so this flips his world upside down.
All three of the men have to reassess their lives, decide what’s really important to them and figure out what they need do to hold on to that. Watching how each of them responds to the career implosion hits home. We’ve all seen it happen to friends, neighbors, relatives – it may even have happened to us. The Company Men is a movie for our times, but it is more than just a “recession movie.” There are no explosions, no car chases, no super heroes and no 3D – just real, raw emotions in a quiet drama that absolutely rings true.