Starring: Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello, Craig T. Nelson, Gary Galone, Thomas R. Kee

Director: John Wells

Writer(s): John Wells

Cinematography: Roger Deakins

Original Score: Aaron Zigman

Running Time: 104 Mins.

There is a moment in The Company Men when, having been made redundant from his high flying job, Ben Affleck has hit rock bottom and the realisation that he has to say goodbye to his Porsche and golf membership (how humiliating!) that you stop thinking that an admittedly initially smug character has become sympathetic, this is testament to how far Affleck has come in the last few years. Not only is this another example of what a good actor he is (after The Town) but also how he is savvy in using his screen persona to great effect, the best possible effect in fact, in moulding a man who goes from the top of the ladder to the bottom in the briefest of periods.

Because this is Affleck, that guy from any number of roles in the late 90’s early 00′ where he was always the person you wanted to punch, he slips into the role of Bobby with ease losing that smugness and becoming the likeable everyman he always seemed incapable of being. This is rather more fundamental a coup than in many films as it is very much a story that rests on the shoudlers of the actors, there are no flashy visuals, the script is not particularly flashy in the same way that say The Social Network was and indeed the story itself is hardly a “big sell”, treading similar ground to Up In The Air albeit without that glossy sheen and the comedy quirks that Jason Reitman brings. Instead we have scripter and director John Wells, he behind any number of US TV series such as The West Wing and The Sopranos, who makes a good transition from small to big screen but proves a real knack for casting and involving/realistic characters over dynamic plot developments.

Undoubtedly though the plot here will hit to the core of many, perhaps why it didn’t do anything in the US when it opened some weeks back despite the starry cast, it poses the overarching question as to what it means when the company men of the title lose all that makes them in terms of material possessions. You can see where it is going from miles off but thankfully Wells is a man who knows how to avoid schmaltz like the plague so other than a rather too idealistic ending the events to get there are brutally “real”.

One area that really does threaten to tread rather cliched and sappy a path is when Bobby picks up tools in taking up his brother-in-laws offer of a manual labour job, initially dismissing it but forced to go there when times prove too hard…surprising eh! Thank the lord then that the brother -in-law is none other than Kevin Costner, the timeless everyman who has dabbled with cheese in the past ofte in a big way but really just plays it straight here as the no-nonense, hard working guy who values family over possessions (see I did say it was a little predictable), again though the characters ground the film and help keep us interested and more importantly moved by the plight of Affleck, Cooper and Jones.

Which brings me to my final point, Tommy Lee Jones, if Affleck is perfect casting Jones is just a step beyond with all those cracks in his face hinting at all work he has put into a company that drops him when he seems safest, if Affleck is the heart of The Company Men, Jones is the soul giving weight but never pretention this is the man we would all want as a boss an offers a depction of a working man that is sadly waning as the world slips more an more under a corporate grasp, ultimately the message that The Company Men strives, and succeeds, in giving.

VERDICT

The Company Men seeks, and succeeds, in making comments though these are never heavy handed, something which follows through the characterisation of Jones, Costner and Affleck, not a perfect film then but a perfectly cast and involving one.

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