Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Up In The Air

Up in The Air


  • Released Internationally on 04/12/09
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 10/02/10


In a nutshell

Ryan Bingham lives in what he calls ‘Airworld’. A successful middle-aged man who is hired out by companies to fire their employees, he travels extensively, and it is in the land of airports and recycled cabin air that he feels at home.

Smells like a recession

Although the novel was written nearly a decade ago, the premise is a timely one, given the recent/current recession. As jobs are slashed across the US, cowardly bosses who cannot face their employees and fire them after years of dedicated service call people like Bingham. He flies into your city, first class of course, and sits down with each of your employees to try and convince them that this is the best thing that ever happened to them. Responses vary, but Ryan has bags of experience, and a tough outer shell that allows him to do his job well by day yet sleep well at night. The firing scenes are a highlight of the film. Many of the extras were non-actors who had actually been fired recently, whilst two of the more lengthy reactions are handled wonderfully by J.K. Simmons (Juno, Spider-man) and Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover).

Flying solo

It’s hard not to like George Clooney. His choice of roles manages to keep him appealing to both sexes (for different reasons). He’s confident, a smooth talker, and in control. Which makes him a perfect fit for the role of Ryan Bingham. Unshackled by relationships, possessions or even a home of his own, Bingham strolls imperiously through the nation’s airports, and is greeted everywhere with the smiles reserved for loyal customers. If possible, he tries to make every purchase, car rental and flight count towards his frequent flyer miles, and his one dream is to join the exclusive club of those who have topped ten millions miles.

Enter the ladies

Two women enter his life, on completely different flight paths. Alex seems like a female version of him. Another frequent flyer, and not looking for any commitments or mind games, she starts a casual relationship with him which may seem to be going somewhere. Vera Farmiga (The Departed) is subtlely brilliant in the role. Natalie is completely different. A young, bright and headstrong girl, she joins the company with a plan to revolutionize the business, making the actual firing a webcam job, and threatening to ground Ryan for good. He’s coerced into taking her with him on a few jobs, to show her the ropes, and their different views on most topics under the sun make it an interesting ride. Complementing both Alex and Ryan, Anna Kendrick (Twilight) is a head-turner.

The root of the matter

The setting is airports, but the topic is mostly relationships. Ryan’s determination to live and love the single life is thrown into contention by Natalie’s questioning and Alex’s attraction. Back home, his little sister is getting married, and he feels like a stranger at the family gathering. He has a sure answer to each of Natalie’s probing questions, but as the trip unfolds some chinks start to appear in his armour. The film doesn’t shy away from asking questions for which it has no answer, and there’s a good chance at least one of those questions might hit home with each and every viewer.


Director Jason Reitman (Juno) has done an impressive job of bringing the 2001 novel to the screen. Large parts are unrecognizable from the book, but I would say that each change is an improvement. The character of Natalie adds a looming deadline to Bingham’s decisions, and a wall off which he can bounce his views, although his travel-wise and efficient voiceover comes into play occasionally to guide us through his ‘airworld’.

In the end

The film feels effortless, but on closer inspection is a well-cooked mix of impressive acting, a timely and important story, and some deft editing and directing. There are no fancy effects or rousing set pieces, but in its own, smart way, it’s a great film. First class, all the way.





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