Up in the Air is a throwback of sorts to the classic Hollywood films of yesteryear. The dynamic banter between its two leads is reminiscent of classics like It Happened One Night and of course like the old Hollywood pictures, Up in the Air is a star vehicle led by the last real movie star in George Clooney.
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) spends 90% of his life sucking recycled oxygen 10,000 feet above the ground surrounded, yet entirely alone. He is a corporate assassin leased out to cowards that cannot let go of their own employees. He isn't liked, but he's paid well enough that he doesn't have to care. Ryan isn't particularly liked by his family either.
Ryan's life is in a suspended state of animation much like all of the travelers stuck in airports. That is until he meets his equivalent in Alex (Vera Farmiga), they recognize they're essentially the same souls almost instantly. Alex teases him that when he thinks of her, to "think of yourself, with a vagina."
Ryan Bingham is an oddity in film. He is only at home swiping cards, earning mileage points, and avoiding his one bedroom apartment in Omaha. All of his connections are only surface deep and he seems better off for it. He knows what he has and appreciates the freeing nature of his lifestyle without emotional baggage. Still, he feels pangs late at night like everyone else.
Jason Reitman's latest effort feels like a spiritual sequel to Thank You for Smoking with both films being reflective satires on the present state of America. In 2005, Smoking focused on advertising and spin-control, at that point a burgeoning evil quickly becoming acceptable to America. Up in the Air turns it gaze to Natalie (the charming Anna Kendrick, an incredible debut ifor her non-Twilight career), a newly attached sidekick to Ryan by his criminally scuzzy boss Craig (Jason Bateman). Her revolutionary web-chat firing system will allow anyone to fire someone at will without the mess of dealing with them afterward.
Even Ryan, one of the least sympathetic men around, sees problems with this.
An amusing, yet serious look at the way corporations justify immoral behavior and then apply their rationalizations with subpar logic. More importantly Up in the Air encapsulates a culture at a time of recession and the effects of a recession on that culture. While Bingham's story is indeed a sad one, he is not the one to be sympathized with, we are.
***1/2 out of ****