The Company Men opens with Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck), being sacked from his high-flying sales job, and getting about one-third of what he’d get if he was made redundant after twelve years of service in Australia. The plot is driven forward by his struggle with his own self perception as breadwinner and family man, as he and his family are forced to give up the trappings of his previous “success”, painfully, one by one.
Bobby eventually finds a sense of community with his fellow occupants of the soul-destroying cubicle farm at the outplacement agency as his job search grinds fruitlessly on. His prickly relationship with his builder brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) reaches a point of mutual appreciation towards the conclusion of the film, while steering clear of white collar versus blue collar class struggle cliches.
Bobby’s former boss (Tommy Lee Jones) is fighting the good fight for the voice of reason and compassion within the company as it lurches from one crisis to another, but ultimately he and other long time employees are let go by the man he co-founded the company with all those years ago. The sense of bitterness and betrayal is palpable – Tommy Lee Jones gives a stand-out performance.
The film ends with some glimmers of hope emerging from the struggle and tragedy of the men who lost their jobs, but there is no neat comeuppance for the villain.
Less brutal that Margin Call, this is a well crafted story, focussing on the human stories, rather than financial ones, emerging from the financial crisis of 2008.
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