Lowdown: A consultant specializing in sacking people has to deal with revisions to his place of work.
One of the things that make me wonder about human nature the most is the way people are able to do the most atrocious things under the guise of doing it for work. Up in the Air discusses that particular problem and many of its nuances and does so in an entertaining manner.
A much older than usual looking George Clooney plays a mercenary consultant with a twist or two: his day job is to replace chicken managers when the time comes for them to fire their employees, and his expertise are so sought after that his home is the airplane that takes him from one sad place of work to another. He's so into planes that his life's ambition is to be the seventh American Airlines frequent flyer to accumulate more than a billion gazillion miles. The lack of a home means Clooney is able to isolate himself from fellow human beings, at least as far as meaningful contact is concerned, which is definitely beneficial when one's job is to be the bearer of nasty news. How else can you perform such a task when you actually have feelings?
Up in the Air deals mostly with the cracks that appear in Clooney's wall of isolation when two things happen. The first is him meeting a fellow woman frequent flyer (Vera Farmiga) who leads a life similar to his and with whom he finds himself having a better time than usual. The second is when this young graduate with a diploma that would put Stephen Hawking to shame is recruited by his company based on her idea to cut costs by firing people via a web conference call as opposed to doing it in person. Clooney is so change averse and so worried about not achieving his dream that he takes this young recruit with him on a tour of duty during which both learn a thing or two about life.
I can't say whether Up in the Air is a comedy or a drama but the cavalcade of analogies that form the basis of the movie's message concerning the importance of relationships is, overall, quite impressive. They're everywhere and in every scene; sometimes they're funny and sometimes they're sad, but they're effective.
With an atypical ending finishing things off in a broody kind of a way, Up in the Air left me thinking. No, by now I'm not used to seeing a seriously good mainstream American film, especially not one that tries to make you think, but Up in the Air is one such film.
Best scene: Clooney and his young apprentice inform the ever excellent J.K Simmons he’s fired. As Clooney scrambles to spin the event and present it as an opportunity for Simmons to finally fulfill his dreams us viewers receive a demonstration of some very fine acting.
Technical assessment: The picture is quite good on this Blu-ray. So is the sound, although it has to be said this is a soundtrack that works through subtleties rather than bombardment. I like it because it demonstrates how the Blu-ray format’s sound delivery capabilities can be used to deliver a fine rather than aggressive experience; I doubt a DVD would be able to come up with the goods as well.
Overall: Smart and made well enough to merit 4 out of 5 stars.