Movie Review: Up in the Air


8.5/10 - Almost Perfect

Imagine, for a while, that you fire people from their job for a living. Imagine that you sit across the table with people from different walks of life, from different parts of the country, and different companies, breaking to them the terrible news that they have been fired from their job, just like that. And imagine that few of them go ahead and commit suicide, all because you told them that they have lost their job. And imagine actually enjoying doing this, all the year round, travelling 322 days in a year of 365 days.

This, in short, is the life of Ryan Bingham, the lead character played fabulously by George Clooney. He is the downsizing expert, who is hired to help ease the transition of long term employees to the unemployment line, across the country. In his own words, “Last year I spent 322 days on the road, which meant I spent 43 miserable days at home.” And then occasionally he sneaks out some time and gives motivational speeches on his “luggage philosophy.” Ryan is a veteran in his job, he has no friends, no girlfriend, he doesn’t even know his sister properly and doesn’t feel at home when he is at home. He and his company have a job because big corporates in America don’t have enough courage to tell their own employees that they are required no more. He has his occasional “on the road” affairs with attractive and independent women and he believes that his job is more than just telling people that they have lost their job. Its about “connecting” with them at a personal level, about being there in front of those people, sharing their misery and making it easier for them to accept the inevitable. But Ryan’s boss doesn’t share his viewpoint and decide to adopt a new system proposed by the young and ambitious Natalie Keener (played by Anna Kendrick), in which “firing” can be done through video conferencing and thereby Ryan and his colleagues will no more be required to travel all over the country.

George Clooney and Anna Kendrick

Based on a novel by Walter Kim and directed brilliantly by Jason Reitman, Up in The Air is a very stylish and intelligent comedy-drama that will force you to think as much as it will entertain you. The movie is full of clever dialogues, witty one liners and sexual inneuendos. The clever wordplay in this movie is reminiscent of the subtle comedy of the Ocean’s Eleven series, also starring Clooney. George Clooney seems to have mastered the art of subdued acting evident in most of his movies. And trust me, no other Hollywood actor would have looked more sleek and stylish in this role. Not even Brad Pitt.

His career threatened by the new proposal from Natalie, Ryan decides to take her as an apprentice on his firing tours to show her that firing people is more than just telling them that they are not required anymore and giving them a severance package. In this journey Natalie get confronted with the real world and her own fears and relationship issues.

But is the movie really just about this queer profession of Ryan? Not at all. In fact Ryan’s profession and his conflict with Natalie is just a vehicle for explaining one of the most fundamental human paradoxes: Should a man be completely independent of any kind of relationships, thereby decreasing his “burden” or should he bear the burden in return for company and emotional support. On the one hand is Ryan who is devoid of sentiments and relationships and fires people without getting emotionally troubled by their worries. On the other hand is Natalie, who believes in relations and dreams of having a perfect family and home. The beliefs of both these people are tested thoroughly in the story.

According to Ryan and his “luggage philosophy,” the more relationships we keep in our luggage, the heavier it becomes. To get acceptability from others, we start compromising on our individuality, start doing things just to please others, until the day we realize that our luggage becomes so heavy with all the emotional baggage that we can’t carry it anymore. Ryan asks: what’s the point of all these attachments anyway? His suggestion: throw away as much as you can from the luggage and your life will become simpler. But is it really that simple? Can people really live and be happy alone? There can be no right answer to this question and the film offers none. It depends on every individual and what they want from their lives. Most of us believe that these “burdens” are worth it. But then there are these oddballs like Ryan who believe otherwise.

Vera Famiga

Brilliant performances by the three lead actors in the movie, Clooney, Anna and Vera Famiga, who plays the role of very independent and liberal Alex Goran who has a “no attachment” affair with Ryan and with whom, Ryan finally gets attached to, emotionally. The sexual chemistry between Clooney and Vera is awesome throughout the movie. The screenplay is top notch and so are the dialogues. No wonder the movie has been nominated for six Oscars, including the Best Picture and Best Director categories.

If you are the sort of person who digs into intelligent, meaningful cinema, go watch this one. Otherwise, avoid it. As for me this is one of the most intelligent and meaningful comedy dramas I have ever seen and I give it a rating of 8.5 out of 10.

Oscar Nominations

Best Director – Jason Reitman

Best Motion Picture of The Year – Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman, and Jason Reitman

Best Actor in a Leading Role – George Clooney

Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Vera Famiga

Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Anna Kendrick

Best Adapted Screenplay – Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner


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4 Comments to “Movie Review: Up in the Air”

  1. Well written. I never thought I would agree with this opinion, but I’m beginning to view things from a different view. I definitely want research more on this as it appears very interesting. One thing I don’t understand though is how everything is related together.

  2. I really liked this film. I don’t think it should win Best Picture, but it is definitely deserving of the nomination.

    I’d rather have Anna Kendrick win Best Supporting Actress than Mo’Nique, too (even though Mo’Nique will win).

    • Yeah .. I guess so. When you are up against the Juggernaut of James Cameron and his Avatar, you, being a small fish, have little chance. I would be surprised if Avatar doesn’t get the best picture. Cameron’s Titanic denied Amistad an Oscar a decade ago and something similar will happen this year too.

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