How deep can a three-paragraph review go for Up in the Air? A poetic and resounding movie, it hits the emotional notes emphatically — or is it empathically? The pitch-perfect and subtle nuances, the ebb and flow of the characters, and the technical craftsmanship of director/co-writer Jason Reitman combine to form a poignant story about relationships.
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) jetsets from city to city as a corporate hitman. Hired by companies in need of someone to do the dirty work, he fires employees, demonstrating an uncanny knack for getting into people’s personal space while remaining professionally distant. He forswears human relationships for life in the air and dreams of obtaining 10-million frequent flyer miles, a feat that will give him executive privileges and his name on the side of a plane. When upstart Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), perhaps aptly named, develops a plan to save the company money by grounding all the employees, Bingham takes her under his wing.
Bingham teaches Keener the corporate downsizing ropes, but he can’t help her gain friends or keep her boyfriend. He’s a man so detached from his family that his sister asks her fiance’s uncle to walk her down the aisle. It’s unpretentious while dramatic, breezy but weighted — the characters don’t just talk about who they are, they show it. It’s the way Bingham looks at a board full of pictures, or the calmness exhibited by a terminated worker who explains how she’ll commit suicide. It’s near flawless in execution, and it’s so personal, it comes close enough to touch.