I first saw 'The Company Men' at Sundance 2010, but its story of job loss and the implications of a recession on personal lives is still as relevant as it has ever been. Director John Wells spoke at a question and answer session after the movie had ended where he recounted numerous stories he had heard of people losing their jobs. One heartbreaking story involved a group of people that worked for a defense contractor. The workers had been issued security clearance cards to enter their building. In order to find out if they were still employed, the employees had to line up every day and try their cards one after another in the door. If your card no longer worked then, sorry, you've just been let go. In short, recessions suck.
'The Company Men' begins with a montage of the main characters putting on their battle armor, only here it's suits, ties, and cufflinks. These are the warriors of the workplace. Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is an overpaid middle manager, who prides himself on his Porsche, his bigger-than-average home, and his country club membership. In an opening scene we see him playing golf with his friends without a care in the world. He even advises them to buy stock in GTX, the very company he's working for. Too bad for Bobby that when he returns from his golf game, he is given notice that the company is downsizing... and he's fired.
GTX, Global Transportation Systems, is cutting costs trying to boost their stock price, and no one is safe. Craig T. Nelson plays the CEO who's nice on the outside, and ruthless on the inside. Gene (Tommy Lee Jones) is his right-hand man. They built the company up from one measly shipyard. Seems ironic that they're now shutting down the very shipyards that launched their business. That's the reality of our "new global economy." Companies must adapt or die. At one point it's mentioned that the sole purpose of GTX is to work for its stockholders, which just reminds us of how easy it is to lose track of what made the success in the first place.
Gene is a kind-hearted, but realistic man. When he realizes that the company has been firing people from his own divisions without telling him, he goes to bat for them. Instead of getting jobs back, Gene becomes mired in the bureaucratic mess that is GTX. Gene plays both sides perfectly. He's flying on private jets and riding around in limos, but trying his hardest to keep his people. While he loves what money and power has brought him, he still hasn't forgotten how he got there.
'The Company Men' can be, at times, a little heavy-handed in its portrayal of today's economic situation with its constant mentioning of CEO pay. And it's a little hard to feel sorry for guys who lost their source of income where they were earning six figure salaries. But, the movie has a subtle way of guiding us through what it must be like to lose your job. Suddenly, characters like Bobby are faced with dire situations. He doesn't want to let go of the life of luxury, but when it comes to making the mortgage and country club payments, the choice should be easy.
In the Q & A, Wells also discussed why he made this particular movie. He said that he started writing it around the time of the Dot Com bust, but then the idea was shelved because the economy got better. A few years later we find ourselves in an even more precarious situation, so this film has found a perfect audience to target.
Guided by pitch-perfect performances from Jones, Chris Cooper, along with one of Ben Affleck's finer roles, 'The Company Men' is a sobering journey into how unsafe all of our jobs really are. It doesn't particularly tell a happy story, but that's the "nature of business," as they say.
Blu-ray Vital Statistics
'The Company Men' comes to Blu-ray housed on a BD25 Single-layer Disc. It's presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. According to the case it's coded for region A, although B and C have not been tested.
Anchor Bay has provided a sharp looking 1080p presentation for 'The Company Men'. The clarity here is striking. Close-ups feature wonderful detail, especially when it comes to the dour faces of Tommy Lee Jones. He does so much more acting with his face in this movie than he ever does with his words. The slightest movement of an eye or lip is captured perfectly, helping us really understand how bad he genuinely feels for his employees.
Colors pop with pressed shirts and dry cleaned suits looking as spiffy as ever. Contrast is spot-on. Whites never burn too hot, and blacks rarely crush subtle detail. Delineation of shadows gives us a good sense of depth during darker sequences.
I didn't notice any terrible encode problems or video malfeasance. I did see a few minor bits of aliasing in the grills of a couple of the sports cars featured in the movie, but that's it for anomalies in the video. This is a great transfer from Anchor Bay.
'The Company Men' is talky, and it seems like the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix has a slight volume level problem. The sound effects and soundtrack come across clean and clear, but the movie's dialogue needs a little help. It's rather soft throughout the movie, and is routinely drowned out by the other stuff going on around it. In a talkative drama like this, it's important to have clear, intelligible dialogue. Here it seems rather muffled most of the time.
Ambient sound is nice, though, as busy offices, construction sites, golf courses, and restaurants boast clear levels of surround sound. LFE is light, but that's to be expected. There aren't any large explosions that are going to rock your house. The sub usually kicks in during some of the musical choices on the soundtrack, but other than that it pretty much keeps to itself.
Overall, this is a serviceable audio mix, but the dialogue really should have taken more of a place on center stage rather than feeling like it was fighting to be heard.
While the ending may be sunnier than many American workers have experienced, 'The Company Men' still provides a stark look at how losing jobs can not only affect a family financially, but it can destroy morale. It can damage pride, psyche, and well-being. For some, the job they have is who they are, and once they lose it they have no idea what to do with their lives. The video of this disc is great, while the audio needs a bit of work. Still, 'The Company Men' comes recommended buoyed up by some brilliant acting performances.