"Up in the Air" soars above the rest

Dec. 15, 2009, 11:12 a.m. | By Jialin Quinlan | 10 years, 10 months ago

Fly away with fabulous acting and witty humor

Director and co-writer Jason Reitman, best known for the hilarious "Thank You for Smoking" and the adorable "Juno," works his magic again in this high-flying hit. Reitman bases his film around the cliché of "finding yourself," and yet the final product is surprisingly refreshing - a closer look at what it would be like to simply fly through life without baggage.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) fires people for a living. He waltzes almost year-round from office building to office building, doing the dirty work for bosses too wimpy to deal with the situation. For most people, the thought of spending more than 300 days on the road would be absolutely unthinkable, but Bingham wouldn't have it any other way. Two women soon enter his world and give it a 180-degree turn. There's Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), the smooth, sexy, no-strings-attached businesswoman from Chicago and there's the peppy, fresh-out-of-Cornell Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), the newest addition to Bingham's firing squad. When she proposes an overhaul of the current system favoring videoconferences over travel, Bingham finds his finely tuned existence threatened. He is forced to take Keener on the road to show her the ropes of the job termination business.

Clooney is marvelous in this role, keeping the audience sympathetic to his character. His sleek, simple life would be almost attractive until we see how much he misses out on family, friends and most importantly, love. Farmiga is similarly stunning in her role as Bingham's "mile high club" love interest, radiating confidence as she moves through the film. Kendrick, best known from her part in the "Twilight" series, is similarly flawless, though a single attempt at tears seems strangely unrealistic. She brings to life Keener's snappy wit and utter confusion at the life Bingham has chosen to live. At the same time, she is almost a younger Bingham, with the same mentality of being married to her job. She gives him the wakeup call that he needs, calling his life a "cocoon of self-banishment."

The script deserves special praise - every line hits with impact. Scenes shift quickly, cutting from location to location, keeping the audience on its toes waiting to see what will happen next. But the cinematography and editing really bring the film together. The opening credits show a montage of scenes shot from the air, setting the tone of the movie nicely. Meanwhile, the camerawork switches from the traditional camera angles to a handheld view that gives the movie an authentic feel. The scenes of Bingham deftly packing a small carry-on suitcase are cut to show how streamlined his routine is, an art he has perfected over thousands of flights.

Reitman brings to life the otherwise typical plot. While not a comedy per se, "Up in the Air" mixes its introspective examination of Bingham's life with witty humor that keeps the audience laughing. Keener's quips and retorts when she analyzes Bingham's life are unexpected but spot-on, and her zeal for her new job is equally hilarious. At one point, after watching Bingham fire yet another employee, she bursts out "Please, for the love of God, can I fire the next one?"

"Up in the Air" is an exceptional film. It gives a rare perspective on the important things in life: following your dreams and finding love, whether it is from family, friends or that one person that makes everything worthwhile. Reitman's direction is unparalleled, and while not exactly a movie for all ages, it's a definite runner in this year's Oscar race.

"Up in the Air" (109 minutes) is rated R for language and some sexual content. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

Tags: Review

Jialin Quinlan. Jialin is an aspiring gymnast who started her career at the young age of 3. She was rated Maryland's number one pole vaulter in 2004 and her floor routine was widely considered able to compete with Shawn Johnson. However, a horrific addiction to peanut butter … More »

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