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THE COMPANY MEN
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello, Rosmarie DeWitt, Craig T. Nelson
Director: John Wells
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: June 7, 2011

 

Dear God, please help my dad find a job so he won't be unhappy all the time.

Film ***1/2

Talk about a movie for our times. In fact, I don't think I've seen a film take a true up close and personal look at the effect of the current economic crisis better than The Company Men. It may not qualify as escapist entertainment, but in terms of dramatic interpretation of what so many people in this country are going through, this is about as razor sharp and effective as it gets.

The writer/director is John Wells, who's made a name for himself as a producer of many popular television series. These include the likes of The West Wing, ER and the criminally underrated Third Watch. What led Wells to make a transition to the big screen, essentially, was the urge to tell a story that hit close to home, as it was effecting several members of his family.

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is a top executive for a major shipyard conglomerate. He walks into his office one morning about to take on the day as usual, only to discover that he's about to be fired as the company is canceling out over 3,000 job positions. Suddenly, everything Bobby has worked hard for, including his Porsche and nice suburban house, are in jeopardy.

The recent downsizing also has fellow executive Phil Woodland (Chris Cooper) extremely concerned. He hasn't been axed yet, but can feel it coming around the corner. He already has one kid in college and the other enrolled soon. Needless to say, he isn't about to accept being let go for any reason.

Stuck in the middle of the mess is Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones), one of the two men who started this business long ago. He's long shared an idealistic view towards taking care of his fellow employees. However, his longtime company partner, Salinger (Craig T. Nelson) seems to have lost track of that vision and has grown accustom to the notion of a company surviving by increasing profits.

Bobby struggles to get back on his feet career-wise, but wants to do so without letting anyone notice that he's actually lost his job. Eventually, he agrees to a lower-paying position working alongside his brother-in-law, Jack (Kevin Costner), at a construction company. It may not resemble his corporate glory days, but whatever brings in some money, right?

In addition to being true to the current economic climate, The Company Men is also a remarkable ensemble acting piece. Ben Affleck continues to showcase a solid streak, in addition to his fantastic work in The Town, with a strong performance of a man you really feel for the minute he's forced to reassemble his life. Chris Cooper also creates a most sympathetic character in Phil, and Tommy Lee Jones once again illustrates how subtle acting techniques can convey so much in his role of the conflicted Gene. And Kevin Costner nearly steals the film with a charismatic blue collar turn as the realist construction worker brother-in-law, and Rosmaire DeWitt, the Oscar-nominated actress from Rachel Getting Married puts in another terrific performance as Bobby's supportive wife, Maggie.

Though there have been a good number of documentaries that have captured the effect the current economic crisis has had on our country, it's really nice to see a mainstream feature attempt to deliver the same impact. And rest assured, The Company Men does exactly that. It's also a remarkable drama that's terrifically acted. Those qualities, combined with the fact that the movie has something important to address to the audience, have resulted in a film you should definitely take the time to watch.

Video ***1/2

While the film itself is not meant to be striking in the visual department, this Blu-ray release from Anchor Bay nonetheless provides a strong and quite effective HD presentation. The film's natural lighting comes across well by way of the 1080p, and the many interior office sequences look most authentic. Image detail is consistent throughout the presentation, as is overall clarity. And various close ups on the actors faces showcase a very well handling of skin tones.

Audio ***

Strictly a dialogue-driven piece, the DTS HD mix does soar in that every single word from the cast is delivered through the channels in pitch-perfect form. Various set pieces do provide some momentary kick, as in the scenes involving construction work. Numerous music cues are also effectively handled.

Features ***

We get just the right touch of extras on this Anchor Bay Blu-ray, starting with a most informative commentary with writer/director John Wells. There's also seven minutes worth of Deleted Scenes and an Alternate Ending that runs around twelve minutes in length, as well as making-of featurette (which clocks in at about 15 minutes) and a Theatrical Trailer.

Summary:

The realistic effects of our current economic status isn't sugar-coated one bit in The Company Men, and the film is all the more effective because of that. I can't exactly recommend the film if you're searching for escapist fare, though if you demand a top-notch drama that's expertly acted and has something serious to say on the side, then this film does demand your time!

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