When the trailer for “Zero Dark Thirty” plays before a screening of “Argo,” you can’t help but to wonder if our society is crazy for having turned these devastating and/or historically significant events into sources of entertainment. However, as someone who wasn’t around during the Iran hostage crisis, the fact that I was moved enough by “Argo” to go home and Google until I had a thorough understanding of the situation goes to show that Ben Affleck did a better job than my history teachers ever could.
Centered on the true events of the Iran hostage crisis, “Argo” begins with the revolutionaries storming the U.S. embassy in Tehran. All of the embassy employees are taken hostage save for six who seek refuge at the Canadian ambassador’s home. The revolutionaries are unaware of the escape, but are slowly piecing together the paperwork the staff desperately shredded mere moments before the invasion, so it’s only a matter of time before they assemble the office roster including pictures of each and every employee.
Back in the U.S., the State Department works to figure out a way to get the six out safely and discreetly. Exfiltration expert Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) proposes the idea of using a Canadian film as a cover. In an effort to make the endeavor as thorough as possible, Tony joins forces with make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to make the sci-fi film “Argo” a semi-reality.
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Of course most films are aiming to make their subject matter feel real, but in The Company Men’s case, the topic may hit a little too close to home for some. Seasoned TV writer and producer John Wells’ very first feature film focuses on three, well, company men. Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is the young employee on the rise, but when he’s stopped dead in his tracks, thanks to corporate downsizing, he finds that even an impressive resume and skill set aren’t enough during hard times. There’s also Chris Cooper’s character, Phil Woodward. Like Bobby, Phil gets the axe, but in his case, his age makes finding a new spot seemingly impossible. Lastly there’s Gene McClary played by Tommy Lee Jones. He’s the company’s #2, but also finds himself in a tough situation in terms of protecting his employees and himself.
Clearly this is a testy topic for some and Wells was very aware of that. The Company Men was a long time in the making with Wells first developing the concept back in 2000 when the dot-com bubble burst, however, it wasn’t until the most recent economic downfall that filming The Company Men became a reality. During a recent interview with Wells, he told me all about the road to production as well as each member of his all-star cast’s working styles, his experience directing his first film and much more. Check it all out in the video interview below.
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Whether it’s happened to you or someone you know, job loss is a personal matter for the large majority and that makes it a testy topic to manage in a film. If it isn’t represented accurately it could be insulting, then again if it’s dealt with too precisely, it could be too much for some to handle, however, The Company Men approaches the issue quite tactfully. Not only does it deliver a respectable presentation of the hardship, but still manages to maintain a light enough tone making the film a viable source of entertainment rather than just a pity party. In fact, The Company Men might also be a fantastic source for those in need of a little hope.
It doesn’t matter how high you are on the food chain; at GTX, Global Transportation Systems, everyone is on the chopping block during a recession. One of the first to feel the effects of corporate downsizing is Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck), a family man who enjoys cruising around town in his Porsche and improving his golf game. Bobby is certainly angry when he gets the bad news, but pulls himself together quickly and heads into the world of unemployment sure he’ll only be there for a short while. Days turn into weeks and weeks into months leaving Bobby no choice, but to go to work for his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) building houses.
Meanwhile, back at GTX, longtime employee Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) is paranoid his day will come, too. Sure enough, he becomes a victim of a second round of cuts as does the company’s second in command, Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones). All three men suffer the same fate, but their roads to redemption are wildly different.
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