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The Company Men
3 out of 5 stars
Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
It turns out that middle-ranking executives and even some corporate board members have feelings. Who knew? The directorial debut of ‘ER’ creator John Wells proceeds as if it has discovered a new continent or something, but even if the material’s not exactly news, fine performances and a keen eye for character detail mean there’s much to appreciate. Ben Affleck is well cast as the cocksure sales director who loses his $160,000 salary when a shipping and logistics giant downsizes to boost its share prices. Clearly, he needs his sense of entitlement cut down to size, especially when he pooh-poohs an offer from his builder brother-in-law Kevin Costner of work on site to tide him over. Higher up the food chain, long-standing company man Chris Cooper is in denial as the axe starts to hover, while founding partner Tommy Lee Jones proves almost unaccountably shocked by the speed with which his buddy, CEO Craig T Nelson, jettisons loyal workers to protect his own stock options.
So, greed has displaced loyalty, and number-crunching and techno-babble now reign in a land where manufacturers once took pride in building things. The camera glides through an abandoned shipyard with palpable longing for the old days – a cliché certainly, but invested with sincerity here. While the aforementioned star names provide a good deal more nuance and humanity than the sometimes clunky script, it’s that sense of place which impresses here. The tacky faux-heritage houses packed with overpriced gewgaws and soulless decors of corporateland suggest careers spent working towards ultimately vapid lives. Setting up Costner’s salt-of-the-earth type in telling contrast is way too schematic, but Kev’s deliciously grumpy, underplayed turn helps the movie just about get away with it.