Up in the Air

January 6th, 2010 by Nathan Atnikov

Up in the Air explains, among other things, why every airport looks pretty much the same. For Ryan Bingham, every airport he enters offers the comforts of home – comfortable chairs, a smiling greeting, and everything he needs right at his fingertips. They must offer the comforts of home, because his job keeps him on the road upwards of 300 days a year. He has accumulated many club cards, points, and gold-level memberships at swanky hotels, but when he returns to his actual home – a rented apartment – it is sparse and lifeless.

Bingham’s job is to fire people. He’s brought in by companies that are downsizing as a “termination specialist.” He has an eager young employee to show the ropes to, and a continuous fling with an equally well-traveled woman. He tells people that his home is in airplanes and airports, but when his way of life is threatened by a technological breakthrough that would end the need for him to travel, it becomes increasingly obvious that he’s simply homeless. Not destitute, mind you, but without a home.

George Clooney plays Bingham perfectly as suave and cocky, with just the slightest cracks starting to appear in his facade. The true hero of the movie, though, is writer and director Jason Reitman. Reitman has made just two movies before this one – Thank You for Smoking and Juno – and he has a clear knack for finding engaging and interesting stories in unusual places. At a time when quirky indie movies and special effects orgies are crowding the box office, Up in the Air reminds us that grace and subtlety can still make for a great movie.

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2 Responses to “Up in the Air”

  1. Sarah says:

    Hmmm. I liked and didn’t like this one all at once. I really loved the three main characters and though they were completely believable, but it still leaves you feeling empty - which is, I guess, a taste of reality. It reminded me why we all work so hard to make ourselves indispensable.

  2. Nathan Atnikov says:

    Thanks, Sarah.

    I agree, there was a feeling of emptiness at the end, but I certainly don’t think it was a flaw with the movie. I think it was entirely believable. I think the goal of the movie was realism, and it was very much achieved.

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